This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
by J David Edwards
There is a small and inexpensive gravestone in the Invalidenfriedhof in Berlin. The cemetery is old and by decree became the final resting place for distinguished Prussian military personnel. And so it is fitting that Maximilian von Rittenauer, born in Bavaria in 1886, should be interred there. It was I who added the prefix, von, thus denoting title to the name. Among the twenty or so mourners, several were of the British consular staff, including the Ambassador. There were representatives of the Deutsches Reich, three members of the Schutzpolizei, and several foreign journalists. He was buried without ceremony, with all of his medals, and in a borrowed field-grey uniform. The war to end all wars was over. I was standing in a long line of khaki-clad soldiers in greatcoats and blancoed webbing, my mood troubled by mixed thoughts and emotions. There was little movement and certainly no jostling as we all waited in the cold, sleety rain for our turn to embark. I perceived an almost reluctance to board, but it was a reluctance that I shared and therefore understood. The ship, seemingly made distant by the rain, and tethered with ropes as thick as a man’s arm to rusty bollards fore and aft, lay alongside the pier, looking as grey as each of us must have felt. We were heading home, home to England. The exultancy of victory and the euphoria of armistice had abated now to be replaced by the guilt that it was we who were returning home. And with the guilt, a certain melancholy and a hopeless sense of sorrow for the comrades and brothers that would remain here, never to return. They would guard those miles of trenches and duckboards that bore all of their life’s blood. They would be stewards to those fields of blood-red poppies. And we would not forget them. Stretcher-bearers carted men who were but yesterday only boys, and now no longer whole or sound of limb, to form another long line waiting the order to embark. Grey-caped nurses moved about the slowly shuffling throng, handing out cigarettes or pannikins of hot tea here and there along with brief words of encouragement. Even briefer flashes of red from cape lining or wimple hem gave some odd sense of gaiety to the scene. The sounds were lost in a muffle of general noise of boots on cobble and the low susurration of the quiet voices, the clank and movement of pier machinery, and the drone and grind of slowly moving lorries that brought the wounded and the dying from the hospitals in France to be ferried to the hospitals in England. The smell of wet wool, sea, and death hung in the air as a pall.
It was not like this before. It was not like this in England when the pier bustled with marching men and the sound of bands martial. It was not like this when attractive young women waved gloved hands and scented-handkerchiefs under the bunting, when fathers stood proud and mothers smiled through their tears as the sound of huzzahs washed over those who were marching up the gangway. It was adventure then. It was a moment then. It was with swollen heart and eager rush these men all boarded the boats with patriotic fervour for King and Country. It was not like that now. Even though we had done what we set out to do. Even though we were returning victorious, glorious and bearing medals of distinctions earned, it was not at all like that now. Our eyes had seen too much. Our hearts were overburdened and our youth squandered, never to be reimbursed. We, each of us, tended to avoid looking at the other’s eyes, too mindful of the darkness we would see reflected in them. This moment of joy-of-homecoming was but feigned. Whoever could we tell of the horrors we had been witness to and perpetrators of? Moreover, who would believe that such horror and evil could possibly exist? And all of us, deep within our soul, wondered if we could ever be without the fear and the terror in a home where such fear and terror had not touched. All of us in the years ahead would become strange, and a stranger to those who knew and loved us before. That was to be the price of our victory. What worse price was there for those in defeat? I wish I had been there in the Compèigne Forest at that railway siding on that grey November day when it all came to an end. I wish I had been there to witness the secretive signing of the armistice that commenced at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. It may have convinced me that it was, indeed, all over. It may have allowed me to convince myself that it had, indeed, been worth the cost. Captain Cameron of the 130th, to my surprise, arranged for me to travel there with other journalists after Germany capitulated, but it was by then an anticlimax. I began my war as a correspondent and, as Captain Cameron declared while apprising me of the arrangements he had made for my travel to Compèigne, it was fitting that I should end it as a correspondent. That particular occupation now seemed far removed from that to which I had recently grown accustomed, but I would be grateful to the thoughtful Captain in the years soon after the war. I was but eighteen as the world tumbled into an inevitable war following the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, and still in school. My father would not let me put an education in abeyance to join up with all those others who were excited to be involved in an adventure to tug on the moustaches of the Kaiser. They would be home in months if not weeks they vowed and I was going to miss it all because of an insistent patriarch. My only hope was the lottery of conscription. I saw many of my friends off amid guarded jealousy for their good fortune to be part of this adventure of a lifetime. Each promised to kill a Hun for me as if it were merely a
cricket outing that I could not attend. We slapped each other’s backs and shook hands and I thought they all looked grand in their uniforms. But they did not come home in weeks. They did not come home in months. They did not come home for years. My formal schooling ended on a Wednesday in 1916 and a career began the Thursday following in the employ of a small daily newspaper of Tory bias in London. So many men were now overseas that career vacancies went begging and I was confirmed in my position weeks before semester’s end. I was not, I must admit, quite so eager now to join the ranks of those whose constant companions were mud, death, and fear. The daily casualty lists grew and it was nigh impossible to know of a family wherein tragedy had not struck. I still exchanged billets with many of those whom I had seen off to war not long after its outbreak, and received their assurances that I did not want to join their ranks. Thus far, all were still intact, given only to minor wounds that were mended in field hospitals only slightly removed from the front itself. Yet here I was, able-bodied and with a need to prove myself. As the year grew to its close, I had begun to make my mark in my chosen career and found favour with my employers. I was youth incarnate however, and abused my patronage and importuned for a situation as war correspondent. The annoyances of my petitioning eventually came to the attention of Mr Chesterton, the son of the founder of the newspaper and I was summoned to his office. It was unnervingly reminiscent of similar summonses to the office of my old Headmaster. I remained standing in front of a large, ornate but uncluttered desk while my employer cited some of the disruption my carping had caused. He called into question my suitability as an employee of the newspaper. He chastened me in a most patronising of manner at the unlikelihood of such request as only, thus far, a handful of correspondents were selected, and these were deemed journalists and news writers of considerable renown. Moreover, he went on to explain, their endeavours were pooled, despite their private associations, and the pooled commentaries and other writings made available to all news sources. More correspondents were not, therefore, needed or even desirable. He proceeded to dress me down in such a manner that I assumed my career was thus terminated and I set about noting the details for my future recollection. Chesterton was a man of large proportion who took to wearing wing collars and bow ties and sported a gold fob watch on his waistcoat. He wore a Homburg out of doors and carried a walking-stick that he did not need. He drank, it was said, to an almost excess of the finest whiskey and smoked the foulest of cigars. His peers, with extreme favour and privilege, gave him full regard. The office was curtained in heavy material of royal-red velvet and panelled with wood that had long since darkened with age. Several large portraits adorned the walls to brood over the events that took place therein. It was redolent
of whiskey, and a small sideboard held crystal decanters of the fabled distillation, and the air was heavy with the lingering aroma of cigar. There was also on the sideboard a silver-framed photograph, the details I could not discern but was to later learn was of Chesterton being interviewed by Queen Victoria. A bookcase boasted an array of leather-bound and gilt publications that appeared well used. The carpeting of the office was thick and of Persian device. A black-leather daybed looked inviting under the window whose drapes were now drawn closed. The sudden movement of the chair in which Chesterton reclined recalled my attention. He leaned further back, apparently finished with his summing-up of my character, and I awaited my discharge. He steepled his fingers while seeming to choose his next words, though I was not altogether certain he had not nodded off for his eyes were closed and his head slumped forward as if in prayer. “I shall make some enquiries. Till then, stop making an ass and a nuisance of yourself. Enquire also of your father if he has objection to any such proposal. Request a meeting with me in a few days time”. It was nearly that simple. Late November saw me aboard a troopship underway to France with a complement of Empire expeditionary forces from the far-flung Commonwealth. I was in uniform at last and on my way to war and adventure. I was, to all intent, but not precisely, an official war correspondent. I would not thus remain for long in either event. In the opening months of the war when appointments were made for war correspondents, they were kept safe well behind the lines and attached to General Headquarters. There they were given whatever information about the fighting the high command wished to convey, which wasn’t much or always accurate. When the battle of the Somme began, those correspondents reported that first day’s disaster as a victory, in line with that which the generals expected would be the case. Several of the correspondents voiced concerns over this treatment and to demand access to the front where they could see for themselves what was happening. Haig relented, and by 1916, correspondents and cine-photographers turned up in unlikely and often dangerous places. I was attached to GHQ but not as an independent. My position had been created to allow my presence as a dogsbody or assistant to the other officially recognised correspondents. I was but an apprentice though such debasing terminology was never employed. My first taste of battle occurred not long after my arrival in France. It bore no resemblance whatsoever to the vainglorious mental image I assumed all battles to be. I freely admit that a tempering had occurred when I witnessed the biblical devastation to the countryside and had blundered through the mud of rutted roads for miles at a time. This was my first expedition out of England and I simply assumed that the peculiar, unpleasant odour that permeated the landscape was but the smell of France. We were briefed that an
offensive was planned for the morning and I managed to insinuate myself with a party that was going to be there to report on the battle. It was exciting, and combined with the bitter cold and a nervous stomach, I found it hard to stop from shaking as I crouched in the trench with the shelling whistling overhead to trouble the enemy before the charge was scheduled. It was still dark and the sleeping soldiers were brought awake with the command, “fall to, on the double”. I managed to speak with several of the soldiers pressed against the sandbagged wall of the trench as they awaited the signal to go over the top. One lad, a replacement, and only in France for less than a day and a night, was eager to do well. He was a volunteer and signed his Attestation papers one day after the birthday that made him eligible. Commands were shouted and whistles blown and brave young men climbed the ladders with the breaking of dawn. I watched my new friend as he gave me a quick smile and took his place at the ladders. He made it to the top then fell back, his arms stretched wide, his rifle falling from his open hand. He was dead before his body hit the floor of the trench, a bullet to the head. There was something so outrageously unjust with that sudden horror that I almost cried out with indignation. The attack faltered at a cost of nearly one hundred men killed or wounded. The smell of the battle became my nightmare. The smell of faeces, of blood, and of cordite all mingled with the intimate aroma of the earth, torn asunder by shells, to imprint itself upon my brain. That was not to be the worst of it for I had not yet become fully acquainted with the smell of death and rotting, putrid flesh. I managed to climb one of the ladders after the disengagement, risking the anonymous sniper’s bullet, to gaze across the few yards that separated ours from the enemy’s trenches. Smoke drifted like patches of early-morning mist across the earth, becoming a wreath to honour the bodies of the fallen brown mounds that once were those young, brave men. I was astonished at the silence after the tumult of battle and comforted by the steadying bark of orders of command by the non-commissioned ranks and junior officers. Such madness. I knew then that I needed to be one of those whose hands were lent to the completion of the war. I could not stand by while others did the job, while others signed off on their lives to bring this war to an end. It was my shoulder that needed to be at the wheel and my life forfeit if need be. Spring’s warmth of 1917 saw me as a private in a rifle regiment and taken on strength by a battalion in the frontline trenches. The fading warmth of summer then saw me promoted in the field to corporal. I continued to write of the war in lengthy billets to Mr Chesterton to whom I felt obligated and more personal letters to my father who I felt I had betrayed. I survived the war without incident other than a wound to the chest from a high-explosive shell that knocked me off my perch with its concussive force. A splinter of shell tore through a rib and collapsed a lung. We were promised that the Hun was short of shells but someone failed to notify him, as he was quite profligate with their use.
I watched French civilians. German shells would blast asunder a group of men who were then interred as the next round showered them with fresh dirt to conceal their mutilated bodies. one or another would be blown apart from the blasting but still they picked their way around shell craters as if it was nothing more than inclement weather. When the whole world has gone insane. It finally came to land less than a dozen feet from where I was cowering and left me painted with my own blood and considerable stinging of my breast. and again in civilian costume. I was then evacuated on a hospital ship to England and taken on strength at Endell Street Military Hospital to enjoy the ministrations of the female staff there. A comrade assisted me with dressing the wound and I crawled my way to safety. A further round would exhume the corpses to leave them lying grotesque and barely recognisable as human. It was an interview I would remember always. I remember repeatedly damning to hell all German snipers as I crawled my way out of danger. not least because Mr Chesterton. At war’s end.Each day presented us with bizarre events such that bizarre became normal. Inevitably. and they had been falling for nearly two hours without cessation. Though I acquitted myself well. However. Each shell had a history of its own as it ripped to pieces our comrades in great splatters of blood. 6 . He greeted me with respect and affection and without need of an appointment. I can give no answer to such odd behaviour other than their farms were all but destroyed and one must presume there was no reasonable alternative. I paid my compliments to Mr Chesterton. The way was very difficult and I was obliged to crawl over several bodies of the heroes that lay there. who had glanced through it while on an official visit to the hospital. and selling vegetables to small groups of soldiers in the midst of bombardment. victims of a sniper. I discovered that he always assumed I would take up my position and resisted any attempt for me to do otherwise. I shut my eyes and crawled the rest of the way until I was behind the trench and into another that led to the road that led to a first-aid station. some other yardstick must define sanity. I was glad to be deemed medically fit again as it seemed unnatural to be there away from harm. I waited for the one that would claim me. Doctor in Charge and the founder of the Women’s Hospital Corps. farmers. some three hundred yards distant. I was given the privilege of an opportunity of interview of Dr Flora Murray. not wishing to disappoint those who had placed their trust in me. away from fear. printed it in its entirety. The shelling on the day I was wounded was the prelude to a counter-attack by the Hun. wandering from trench to trench. I was not at all reluctant to rejoin the lads at the front. When I had almost recovered my health. The aid station sent me in its turn to a field hospital in Boulogne. while my comrades were still in the thick of things. I was not desirous of remaining in uniform even one day longer than required. One of those lifeless bodies was a friend from my own section and I almost joined him as a sniper’s bullet cut loose and I was obliged to lay my head close to the ground.
I was once again his employee but due. I was now elevated to a level of contact of an almost personal nature. I discovered that many of my comments had been published in his paper. to my having maintained almost weekly contact by way of the post with my observations about the war. I deduced by his manner of holding a cigarette that he was from the continent and I was rather curious of what was to come. though heavily edited and censored where my remarks may have been a little less than prudent. and more punitive than concord”. though neither man betrayed any expression. England was enjoying summer in 1921 when I was summoned to Mr Chesterton’s office. bordering on revolution. it must also impact upon Germany in like manner. Though some suggest it is because of overzealous spending budgets. This was especially so with Rauch. it is clear the war was a drain of unprecedented proportion. “Punitive? In what manner”? There was somehow an atmosphere of heightened expectation in the room. I was one of those who feared the worst from this treaty. and so I chose to make my reply straightforward. I was now a senior employee and attended many such meetings within this sanctum. then it would be him forced to do the prompting. 7 . If he wanted to make more of it. I found Mr Rauch to have an infirm handshake and he did not create a good first impression. “England reels under burden of debt. Rioting. was a continuing occurrence in Germany these days. and coupled with spiralling inflation and much unemployment was cause for concern. for I still retained strong feelings about the war. I was first introduced to a Mr Rauch and invited to sit in one of the leather chairs that fronted the large desk. and its aftermath. “It is far less a treaty than it is a decree of guilt. This was a dangerous subject. I suppose. its causes. But even reduced. and I was careful again to consider my response. I sensed that this referral to the treaty was not simply a ploy of conversation by Rauch. that it would lead only to another war. This being so. How then is Germany expected to make those demanded war reparations and maintain reasonable economy”? “That first impossible demand for reparation was seemingly made more honourable by reduction. I looked expectantly at Mr Chesterton but the first comment caught me by surprise as Rauch uttered it and he asked what I thought of the Versailles Treaty. it does not make it any the less impossible”.
Chesterton waited until the door had closed fully behind the departing Rauch before explaining that Herr Rauch was in charge of a foreign news desk located in Germany. Our offices in the Alexanderplatz. formed on German soil to enforce those demands. And it was hard pressed to conform to the demands made upon it by terms of the Versailles Treaty. Inter-Alliierte Militaer-KontrollKommission.“Germany was given no part in the drafting of the treaty. I fear it will bring repercussion of enormous consequence”. I will be in touch before you leave”. was unable to control the unrest that plagued Germany. Rauch and Chesterton merely looked at each other and I saw first an almost imperceptible nod from Rauch and acknowledged by Chesterton. taking one step backward before turning. not far from the police headquarters of the newly reformed Schutzpolizei. That is not treaty. It did not help that the terms of the treaty also restricted the size of the civilian police forces to their 1914 level and that police power remained decentralized. The German government. that is travesty. “I have another appointment if you will kindly give me your leave”. I was to be made a foreign correspondent at some considerable increase in salary if I so wished. Herr Rauch. “Good day. and crippled by the Inter-Allied Commission. 8 . a slight leaning forward of the upper torso towards Chesterton who remained seated. The hand-tied Deutsches Reich had little choice but to evade many of the restrictions or face the total collapse of Germany. Rauch turned to give me a curt nod of departure and. Chesterton looked upon me with an amiable expression that implied my acceptance was mere formality that was requested out of politeness alone. made his way to the door of the office. Rauch stood suddenly and made a deferential bow of the head. I would spend the next celebration of Christmas in Berlin. These evasions. She was simply obliged to sign it on threat of starvation by the continuance of our blockade and a return to hostilities. More than seven million Germans are lost to the annexation of former German territory. Mr Chesterton leaned forward across the desk and shoved out a hand that was taken briefly by Rauch as if some deal had just been fully negotiated and agreed to. were comfortable but austere. stumbling along since the adoption of a new constitution in Weimar two years before. as sensible as they may have been. It must be anathema to the German populace to be held solely responsible for the war and then to have its armed forces curtailed in such a manner as to leave them vulnerable to attack by any other nation wishing them harm.
It was not a good time to be a German but it was a most interesting time to be a foreign correspondent. Morpheus took me to his bosom. I found Alec to be of strange manner. Though I did not condemn them. of course. I believed body and soul that I. Almost no one in Germany was satisfied with conditions and no one could see how they would ever improve. aware of those changes but attributed it all to the fact that I was maturing. so it was no wonder that patriotism took refuge in the beer-halls and rathskellers of Berlin-by-night. I fell in love with Berlin. But it was not so. finally. to some degree. He was always straightforward in either condemnation or praise but sought to dissemble should the conversation drift into any aspect of the fighting. School was far behind me but the education in languages stood me in good stead and I learned to speak the language with some fluency. We never spoke much about the war or our part in it except in the most general of terms and we both hastened to find some device by which we could change the subject. it seemed. in quiet voice.invoked the wrath of the IMKK leading to abject frustration of the government. He was a doughboy in France in that final year of the conflict and we had. been in several same places at several same times. named Alec. I sought to deny this accusation almost as soon as it was spoken but he was as quick to show me ways in which my own personality had become seriously altered. I called them strange then and odd. that I was one among them. I soon got over the sleepless nights and tortured dreams that came when. I thought that I was able to handle well the aftermath. I restricted myself to the company of other foreigners. There was little national pride left now in Germany and attempts to display any were quickly suppressed. I attributed his strangeness to the effect upon his nerve during the war in France. My father held my gaze for some long seconds before he said. one of the fortunate few. I found this disconcerting and for much of my early time in Berlin. But I recall a dinner with my father where I mentioned the disturbing number of suicides among those still young men. expatriates and. For my own part. One of the journalists with whom I became a close friend was an American. other journalists. There was always an air of suspicion in Berlin that played upon the faces of people whom you were meeting for the first time. Chapter 2 One falls in love with a great city. This was enough to ensure ourselves that we must have met before and that was as good a reason as any to continue the bonhomie. though some said that I spoke it like a Wiesbaden butcher. I was. 9 . had come through it all unscathed of mind and manner. It was as my father said. veterans of the Great War. I sympathised that they could no longer find their balance in a world they lost when they fought to preserve that very world.
sometimes for cash or sometimes for future favours. We often would find ourselves at a table with young German men at a rathskeller we particularly enjoyed. But it was quickly topped by another in the same vein by one of the German group of rowdies at our table. and just before the world was plunged into economic depression. My understanding of their motive came to fruition one night when our table became louder in direct proportion to the amount of beer with which we swilled our forever-parched throats. and made good contacts that furthered our careers.Neither Alec nor I were ensnared by romantic involvement in those early days and so most of our time was spent together in the company of other hedonistic young men and women. and the rathskellers we all frequented. Though it was quite clear they must have been. Much valuable work-related information was quietly passed on to us there. in some cases. sunny girl who would become my wife. The coterie that included Alec and myself was well known at certain restaurants. All aspects of our lives. It was such a lifestyle of abandon that it was almost with relief that I surrendered to a more structured and steady existence with my marriage to Elsa. The boisterous happening did not go unnoticed by a sullen-looking group of aesthetes at an adjoining table. and then by another. We caroused. to let one’s views on certain matters become known. We got to know and recognise at sight many of the regular patrons of these establishments and. barring our health. kaffeehäuser. It was not prudent. with whom you are most certainly aware. it was learned. almost none would admit to having been in the army. though her much-loved books are authored under a nom de plume. I must admit to my ignorance in those very early days of my introduction to German society. It is odd how something that should have been lost in the general din of noise from patron and cabaret music could become such a point of focus and attention. joined them in conversation. giving us an inside source for breaking or about to break news items. for the story I wish to tell you occurred fully one year before I met the beautiful. I do not remember the lead-up to the anecdote that Alec was prompted to relate of an incident in France. prospered from an almost licentious lifestyle. drank. and when the topic of conversation drifted to those emotion-charged years of the war. That sober and happy event would occur in the same year the National Socialist German Worker’s Party began its rise as a potent force in German politics. But here I get ahead of myself. There was a moment when the agitated brew remaining in the stein frothed and foamed in 10 . not to be outdone. they manufactured unlikely stories as to occupations held in Germany for all those years. One of those aesthetes banged but once his near-empty stein of beer on the table and all eyes and ears turned to witness the event this proclaimed. We became intimate associates with consular staff from several embassies. This was not always as simple as it may sound due to the suspicious nature of so many Germans after the war.
Some who had heard him speak said he was Bavarian. to spend the remainder of the night in a gaol cell. It was probably good fortune that he always sat alone and never in company. He was removed. This odour was not of honest labour turned musk but the unpleasant stink of reclusion. but with whom I had been unable to begin any intercourse or dialogue. and he was patting his pockets in a vain attempt to find the funds to buy another. no one knew for sure if he was thus employed. I admit to being somewhat intrigued by his enigmatic manners. cordially pushing across one of the steins to replace his empty lager glass. the following morning. but I had long since given up trying to speak with him. A huge forearm swept out of nowhere and knocked me back to sprawl on my behind some distance from where I had just been sitting. Though he dressed as a factory worker. guttural dismissal. better class of customer arrived in the very late evening. or rebuffed in harsh. blackening both his eyes and rending his cheek. He was tolerated. struck a blow that was made ineffectual by the brewer’s art. He smelled badly. because he gave no trouble and usually departed before the. or it may have been the reason. It began with a sudden commotion that was quickly a brawl. One of those denizens of the rathskeller was a man whom I had. It was met with retort from our table and with challenge from theirs. as if I was not there attempting to reach him. on many occasions. dare I say it. One night I noticed a stranger to the rathskeller. with no love for the communists. I signalled to a barmaid to bring me two steins of beer and joined the stranger at his table. Alec. Other hands reached down to pluck me from the floor and settle me onto a bench to witness the result of the ruckus. and was staring at him as if trying to recall where he had seen him before. and more than one declared him to be on a pension. along with the rest of the combatants. I enquired about him but gleaned scant knowledge for the effort. and to see that Alec and they received proper medical attention. acknowledged with a nod or a word of recognition. I did make several attempts but was either ignored entirely. I continued to nod at him when he entered the beer-hall or to acknowledge him when he had arrived before me. and a few other of those for whom I could personally vouch. I observed this odd vignette for a time before noting that the stranger’s drink had finished before his thirst. courtesy of the quick response by the polizei.consequence but soon lost all import with his muttered comment that surrounded the word. I was far more fortunate than my friend. But I had gained some valuable insight into the post-war German psyche. The unfortunate Alec. He was in turn struck with some indeterminate object that poleaxed him to the floor. as if he went for very long periods without bathing or scouring his clothes. I was told. I was able to declare for him. 11 . and led to sudden tension all across the hall. He was seated opposite the peculiar man at the other wall. fascist.
“Excuse me for intruding. I was not about to let that happen. I saw his eyes travel my length as he sized me up before deigning to answer. I took pity on him. I never was closer to the fighting than perhaps the occasional sound of artillery. Perhaps you served with him”? I watched him carefully but did my best to disguise it. I could immediately see that look of suspicion when it crossed his face and saw in his eyes the beginnings of a plausible lie. and he told us all he knew of Sergeant Max Rittenauer. “Come. I would call for another and for as many thereafter until I had all this gentleman knew or until the bribe of fresh beer was no longer a currency. he is a veteran. from his bearing. the more I look at him”. though we all are in agreement. “He has been coming here for some time and we have been unable to discover much about him. “I was a headquarters clerk in the army. The answer was grudgingly given and even that much would not have been forthcoming except for his thirst. He would have concluded that I was a foreigner by my habit as well as traces of my origin in the way I handled his language. “He is from Bavaria. He was becoming most uncomfortable and was trying to finish his drink in order to end the conversation. It was not long before his doubts subsided though. I think he discerned that a lie would not wash and spared me the trouble. He looked little relieved but followed me to the table where I introduced him to the others. my friend. But I noticed you looking at that man over there as if you might know him. As soon as his drink was but quarter full. I was prepared to look very sceptical should he attempt to lie and tell me he remained in Germany in some occupation vital to the war effort. I think his name is Max Rittenauer”. He would have finished his drink in one quaff had it not been still near the brim and taken his leave with some excuse or other. I. I will stand you beer for the rest of the evening and you will enjoy their acquaintance. for almost all of them. and others. they will tell you. have attempted to converse with him but we have met with no success at all”. Join the rest of us at our table. I am not even sure that he is Max Rittenauer. were simple company clerks during those brutal years as well”. I am most curious about him and wonder if you are acquainted with him or can tell me anything about him that could further satisfy my curiosity. He was Bavarian as we already established but he was 12 . I doubt he would have served with me. I decided to take a punt.
The man said something to him and promptly sat opposite. there was nothing to set Herr Rittenauer out of place from his usual visitations. deliberate death of murder. a wound medal. Beneath the medal pinned to his breast. Above his civilian trousers. we were startled by the sight of Rittenauer seated at his usual table but not in his usual dress. presumably earned. an exception to that remark for which we did not at that time make a connection. and so had their marksmanship. that our informant was not some company clerk and that what he knew was from personal experience. Herr Rittenauer seemed alarmed and somewhat puzzled and appeared to continually query the man’s remarks. I recalled a terrifying moment of my own when I damned all German snipers. I contemplated finding some ploy to move within earshot but that idea was cut short when the man 13 . I wonder if he heard his name and could even hear our conversation or if he recognised the stranger from some distant battlefield of memory. we were informed. They exchanged but few words. some others began to think of the possibility of retribution for what they feared might be regarded as a terrible crime. and pinned to his left breast was the Iron Cross 1st Class. that he was certain one was the Bavarian Military Merit Cross with crown and swords. As the war neared its inevitable conclusion. and those mostly on behalf of the man in the brown suit. Moreover. I am left wondering to even this day if Rittenauer had known that we were discussing him that night. As soon as he spoke the word. We were told by another of our group. and precisely placed was. His own comrades shunned Rittenauer. awarded only for extreme bravery. it seemed retaliatory. no more than three evenings later when Alec and I turned up to haunt the rathskeller. however. There were two other medals suspended from his neck that neither Alec nor I could see properly. Much later that same evening. Apart from this ostentatious and bizarre display of decorations. but the cold.also much decorated and he was a famed sniper. There was. not openly. but with a reluctance to know him as if he were of another caste. The Allied forces employed snipers also and their activity seemed to increase. I suddenly felt sorry for Rittenauer. a man dressed in a rumpled brown suit and wearing a fedora approached Rittenauer’s table. it was felt to some degree that his actions might draw attention to them and mark them for targeting. yet. It was not the impersonal killing of battle rage. It seems so unlikely. It was clear by his knowledge of such things. and around his neck on wide ribbon could be seen the Iron Cross 2nd Class. with some degree of awe. It must have been horrible enough to know the hatred of the enemy. he was wearing a stained field-grey tunic of the German army. and generally to those who had already earned the Eiserne Kreuz 1Klasse. but to sense it from his comrades and to be alienated by all must have taken its toll. Perhaps his madness now was part of that price. To some. There was a feeling that what he did was unholy.
I do not wish to give the impression that I habituated the rathskeller with my custom. worsened. We concluded from our past experiences of Rittenauer that there was likely no connection and the man had simply approached him in response to his display of the medals. in late June. the man had vanished. we forgot about the episode. They fired weapons into the air in order to call for attention. Many of these observations of Herr Rittenauer were from other sources that knew of our idle curiosity with the man.spat out a few words of obvious contempt. As my second year in the maelstrom that was Berlin neared its end. it was said. I fully admit that I then agreed with much of his rhetoric. When they regained their seating. and consumed with nationalistic pride. Whether he had taken offence or had attempted to congratulate Rittenauer we could not deduce. another widely reported putsch took place in a Munich Burgerbrau-Keller. and when Herr Rittenauer turned up again two nights later. for some of those involved with this murder had been dealt with leniently in what became known as the Kapp Putsch in 1920. And so. he fired his own weapon into the ceiling. The murder of Rathenau. which he did with some fervour. of riot and strikes. A man of determined politics. assassinations and murders and of attempted putsch. The beleaguered government lurched and stumbled. 14 . It was often just a quick visit to make contact with associates or to enjoy a hasty meal and almost as much time was spent in a rather more cultured atmosphere. We openly wondered who the man in the rumpled brown suit was and what his connection to Rittenauer might be. There were several fine restaurants in Berlin and my employer happily paid my accounts at more than one of those. We also had dutiful rounds at the many embassies for tea and dinners and formal functions. “The National Republic is proclaimed”. Then a man known as Herr Hitler strode to the speaker’s platform. already at its highest level since the war. and inflation. Gesticulating wildly. though I could not hear them. and quickly stood. he was dressed as usual and the medals not in sight. heavily-armed associates. I did not see anything further as the cabaret had just begun and many stood to applaud the featured act. the Foreign Minister. The constant need for maintaining our connections and more importantly. escorted by two. The year following my taking up career and residence in Berlin was filled by the reporting of revolution and counter-revolution. I had occasion to hear Herr Hitler speak a few times earlier at political rallies or meetings. only reopened the animosities. our informants. kept us on the hop. calling for silence and shouting. broke into a meeting. unable to come to grips with the unrest. I also read copies of several speeches transcribed by fellow journalists on behalf of their employers. It was evident that Herr Rittenauer left shortly after but I missed his departure in my enjoyment of the entertainment. It was thus that we were to learn of the tragic news.
and not long after this event that I was to learn of the tragedy that befell him. It had not been long before this event that I first crossed the path of Herr Rittenauer. doubtless not yet twenty. but compellingly attractive. The rain had. more as an expression of my feelings than for any practical purpose. and the others could wait until tomorrow. I thought. I went through the other messages. This was rhetoric that did not fall upon deaf ears within the German populace. for I enjoyed the simple pleasure of gazing at her. That left Herr Schlage.He was passionate and described not only the ills that had befallen Germany. for she took a perfunctory dismissal very badly. kept others from leaving their own offices and so they made good use of the telephone exchange. I was tired and under some pressure to file my copy before deadline as I made my way back to my office in the Alexanderplatz. but also plans by which Germany could recover from them. rainy sky had given over to the darker onset of evening before I finished all my work. especially from her economic woes. I was stiff and uncomfortable from concentration for so many hours and my eyes were sore. and fully expected. There were still a few others working in their cubicles outside of my own office. for my deadline would not. She was very young. The office lamps were lit though I had not noticed when they came on. This was a ritual procedure that politeness demanded we allow her to perform. When I enquired after Herr Schlage. The list of names was familiar and I surmised the nature of the call with each one except for a message to contact Herr Ernst Schlage of the polizei. The Bavarian siege was of short duration however. It was almost six o’clock and the grey. Chapter 3 It was late afternoon. I was one of the few who had an entire office of their own and I suspect this was due to Chesterton’s influence and it gave me a certain status among the other correspondents. Most of those were from people I would run into later in the evening anyway. The young woman who was our receptionist and telephonist took her duties very seriously and always recited the names on the messages as she handed them over. It would have to wait. The office exchange was still manned and I proceeded to make the call. this would end his political ambitions. and was handed several messages that were received in my absence. I stared at the message from Herr Schlage hoping it might contain some clue as to what was on the policeman’s mind. and the charismatic Herr Hitler was sent to prison. I shook the rain from my cap on entering our offices. I supposed. Berlin skies were sullen grey and it had continued to drizzle with a cold rain that made walking from appointment to appointment on the slick city streets a discomfort and a slight annoyance. though I seldom listened with any rapt regard. I was informed that he had left for the evening and would not return until 15 . I rarely minded.
with a start. but there it was. it was to inform me that Herr Schlage had left another number at which I might reach him. he committed suicide with the aid of an army issue pistol. I thought. I was also at a loss to understand why his words left such impact upon me. I quickly made the new connection and Herr Schlage. “Ein moment. Then the improbable image of a man in soiled field-jacket and bedecked with several medals for courage and bravery focused in my mind. answered it. 16 . There was a slight pause. There had been a death. a slight hesitation as if the person had been reminded of something on hearing my name. Evidently. I honestly admit that I could not recollect the name and was about to tell Herr Schlage that it had drawn a blank. When I established my credentials. My immediate thoughts flew to my father and a chill of dread coursed my body. he informed me that he might have some unpleasant news for me. why then should I now feel sorrow for Herr Rittenauer? All of these thoughts played across my mind until I realized.” For a man whose living is earned from words. I asked that he be told that I returned his call (it is not wise to be seen to be avoiding the police) and gave my name. I was at a loss for them then when they were sorely needed. I had never been able to speak with Herr Rittenauer. Herr Schlage.the morning. I did not know Herr Rittenauer. “Do you know a Herr Maximilian Rittenauer”? Despite all of the drama and speculation surrounding that man at the time. and I cautiously admitted to it to the policeman. Yet. “Herr Rittenauer died in his home. himself. bitte”. that the policeman was still awaiting an answer. Did you know Herr Rittenauer well enough to make a formal identification? We are unable to trace any relatives. No. When the voice at the other end of the line came back. yesterday. I suppose it was concern for my father that the name was so delayed in coming to the surface. I will help in whatever manner that I can”. “I am not sure if my identification will be sufficient. I was nothing to Herr Rittenauer and Herr Rittenauer was nothing to me. but I do know that Herr Rittenauer was Bavarian. I knew nothing about Herr Rittenauer other than what could be gathered by conjecture and gossip. recalling the line from Alice in Wonderland. Perhaps relations can be found for him there? However. Curiouser and curiouser.
When we spoke with the proprietors and staff. as Alec and I later agreed. The drizzle had turned to showers and I was wet and cold before I got to the warmth of the intimately lit restaurant. we would. was pleased to see us both and offered an honest handshake. Neither of us was in the mood to go to the rathskeller that evening and sombrely tarried over our coffee and sweets. but no one of his family is still alive that we can trace. Herr Schlage. had been close-cropped and. I do not like uniforms. Alec agreed to accompany me to the morgue in the morning. say about nine o’clock”? “Nine o’clock it is. “Herr Schlage. they informed us of your interest in him. Ernst. what prompted your interest in Rittenauer”? “That. But. is something I cannot tell you. and the cropping gave it a youth not pronounced in the unkempt lank to which we were accustomed. as prearranged. for I have no association with the man”? “Ah! We were told that he frequented a nearby rathskeller. Would it be possible for you to make identification for us at the police morgue tomorrow. for reasons best known to the examiner. his features softened and we both were shocked to see what a young man Rittenauer was. Those people I had expected to run into this evening would have to wait until a more convenient time. Simple police work. it was not the white of age. tell me. “Ha! You might consider giving up journalism and becoming a policeman. The morgue was harshly and garishly lit. Herr Schlage. though white. Then we parted and each went home and to bed. The seamed lines of his face that we took to be wrinkles of age had smoothed by removal of the grime as the 17 . how is it that you came to contact me. for I do not know the why of it. He just seemed so oddly out of place that it attracted my attention. out of my own personal curiosity. yourself. have put his age as more nearly fifty. Auf Wiederhören”! I met with Alec for a late supper at Romanisches Café. clinically cold and it reminded me more of a torture-chamber than a hospital. I had not eaten since a breakfast of sweet-rolls and coffee and I was ravenous. His hair. who had requested we call him.“Your offer to assist is very much appreciated. We stood looking at the corpse. I broke the news of Rittenauer’s death to Alec almost as if he were a member of the family and needed to be protected from the shock. I was gratified to see he took it as badly as did I. You seem to have a nose for things”. myself. We did know of his birthplace as well. Strangely. Had we been obliged to guess his age from our sightings of him at the rathskeller. Herr Schlage. In the repose of death. May I ask in turn. a thing which plagues us policemen.
and why. We accompanied Ernst back to his office to sign some formal statement of necessity. as did Alec’s when he intoned the same words in an almost sepulchral litany. and it was pleasant to leave the morgue though the office to which Ernst took us was only slightly less austere. Alec was at the café by the time I arrived. My voice echoed slightly against the tiled walls. “It is my belief that this is the man I knew as Maximilian Rittenauer”. It must have been one of the last copies. and it looked 18 . “It is my belief that this is the man I knew as Maximilian Rittenauer”. Ernst left our company momentarily to return with a carbon copy of the police report. Several scars from old wounds disfigured his body. I called into my office to clear up anything of any urgency that may have arisen in my morning absence. for it was cold in the room. Part of the skull to the back of the head was missing we were told. late of the Prussian army.body was prepared for examination. There was a small hole in his neck that in this light and against the exsanguine flesh looked obscene. Ernst had some other matters pressing but agreed to meet us later that afternoon at that unprepossessing residence on a street not far from the rathskeller. but I did nothing and said even less. I felt rising indignation to match that on the day I witnessed that young man. but held my tongue and let Alec take the lead. for indignation now was as useless an emotion as it was then. I did some paperwork and attended to the messages that had built up in my tray. I felt obliged to notify my superior that I would be spending most of the day out of touch. We signed our papers amid a low hum of activity and stood to make our departure and to close the chapter on the life of Sergeant Maximilian Rittenauer. and before long it was time to make my way to the busy Potsdamer Platz to meet Alec for luncheon at Café Josty. flung from the parapet at the scene of his first battle by an unholy bullet. whence we would take a taxi to our afternoon appointment. I began to wonder if I had missed something in the conversation. that boy. but not obliged to inspect for ourselves. He was not too concerned for most of us lived to a schedule of catch-as-catch-can and there was nothing of any pressing nature that demanded my presence. “Would you like to see his rooms? Where he lived”? I could think of no reason why I should want to do so and was therefore much surprised when Alec agreed that he did want to view the scene of the tragedy. The body was laid out naked and I wanted to place a sheet over him. for it was barely legible and needed to be turned on the oblique to a source of light in order to read it at all. I fought it back.
presumably. and a metal- 19 . had been sitting in when he shot himself. His medals were on the table together with several photographs taken in the early days of the war. Ernst Schlage. She rushed to his door but it was locked and he would not answer. but there was nothing needing his attention and he came straight to the café where he spent his time productively reading the police report that detailed Rittenauer’s suicide. the front door to the street opened and a strange man appeared and enquired if all was well. The doorjamb gave with the rewarding sound of rending. on top of a toppled bentwood chair that he. banging on a door and shouting out. and falling metal. the poor copy still presented difficulty. was spread on the table and three 7. Ernst raised a foot and kicked the door with the intention of breaking his way into the rooms. took over from Frau Dunst to pound on the door and demand that the door be opened by whoever was in the room. and of scenes later identified as being in Bavaria. Fortunately. and where. the housekeeper. As if for artistic effect.by his empty coffee cup that he had been there for a while. Herr Rittenauer was lying on the floor on his back. the slide having been torn off the door by the forced entry. he was able to provide me with the gist of the paragraph. of service issue. At that moment. His command of the language was not good. He replied to my query that he checked in with his office the same as I. oily rag. one of whom was our new acquaintance. and an attempt to turn the door handle proved the door was locked. Both a Parabellum Pistole P08. a highly polished. He then guided the police to the house where they witnessed a woman. Herr Rittenauer”. having already worked his way through the report it was easier for him to read it back to me. leather pickelhaube bearing a Bavarian helmet-plate formed a backdrop to the sinister-looking bullets.65mm Parabellum cartridges were stood in a neat row on top of the rag and next to a near-empty bottle of peppermint schnapps and a glass. splintering wood. “Herr Rittenauer. Frau Dunst. An English male tourist raised an alarm at 1615 hours when he hailed two uniformed policemen walking a beat to say that a gunshot had been heard further down the straße and a woman was seeking assistance. The policemen. A soft. Frau Dunst reported that she heard a gunshot from Herr Rittenauer’s suite of rooms while she was in the kitchen at the back of the house preparing the evening meal for Herr Rittenauer. for he had just heard a gunshot from the house. That failed. The door shot open to leave a night-chain swinging gently back and forth like a pendulum. due to its quality. and it took some effort for her to understand what he was saying but she then implored him to get some assistance. She could hear his gramophone playing. the size of a handkerchief.
This included opening and closing cupboards and drawers and looking through books for items hidden between the pages. and took a plate into his room. overstuffed easy chair and a magazinerack that contained only out-of-date newspapers. and switched off the machine before examining the rest of the room. The gramophone had long since finished playing and the needle was noisily scratching its way on the end-groove. One room. The third room contained a large. it was probably the least awkward of any attempted selfinflicted shot other than pointing it at the temple. Where the night-chain slide had been torn from the door was clearly visible though the chain had by now stopped its pendulum motion from its fixed point on the wall next to the splintered jamb. so it looked as if Herr Rittenauer had been sitting upright in the chair when he pulled the trigger. That door had been locked and the key was in the lock on the inside and the night-chain was employed. and Schlage determined the pistol was recently fired. There was only one door between the rooms and that was from the sitting room to a short hallway opening on to the others. It appeared that Rittenauer shot himself under the chin and the bullet smashed through his brain and blew skull fragments out of the back of his head. 20 . These were two sash windows and both were locked by a catch that prevented the lifting of the lower sash. was the only entry to the suite. Though awkward. The entrance door. Herr Schlage made consistent notes of everything he did and everything he looked at. suggesting that they were on a downward trajectory after being sprayed from the wound. According to the report. There were blood-spatters on the wall behind the chair. The sitting room was the only room with windows to the outside. Schlage tested the sash lock and found it firm and secure. close to the baseboard. The room in which he was found was used as a sitting and dining room for he had gotten out of the habit of joining his housekeeper for meals at the dining table. and these were low. now made useless by Herr Schlage’s policeman’s boot. the casing found only a short distance from the body. However. One shot from the 8-round magazine had been fired.framed photograph of an attractive young woman dressed in dirndl were lying on his body. retracted the arm. The hinges to the door were on the inside and painted over so it was clear that the door had not been removed. given the ergonomic design of the Luger. containing only a trundle bed and a nightstand. templeshots did not always penetrate the skull and were apt to miss the brain entirely. Rittenauer’s suite consisted of three small rooms. possibly since it was first installed many years previous. Schlage opened the lid. and designed to defeat the insertion of a blade from outside the window to prise the lock open. was put to obvious use.
She had no idea what he did on those nights he did not spend at the rathskellers or what he did when he came home from them. The other policeman. was employed. But Herr Rittenauer complained about the smell of the soaps. He then asked if he might be allowed to leave. He often visited the post-office and she guessed he was receiving a pension of some sort but did not seek to pry. She also made certain that the farmhouse-style meals she prepared for Herr Rittenauer were plentiful and rich and nutritious. Schlage consented but requested he remain outside of the house to be interviewed. He 21 . and he never. to get some feeling for what it must have been like for the combatants and spent considerable time studying records and events of the battlefields. Frau Dunst and the English tourist. shaken and still looking pale. she gave them a thorough cleaning and opened the windows and doors to a good draught of fresh air. interviewed Wiggins while Schlage continued prowling the rooms. Wiggins nodded assent and was later found sitting on the stoop with his head between his knees. thinking perhaps a crime was being committed. He suddenly became pale on seeing the spectacle of the body and was obliged to take hold of the door for the moment in order to steady himself. She discovered a bayonet in the back of a wardrobe when she attempted to take his clothes to be laundered. Whenever that happened to be. he said. paid well for her services and kept the rest of the house spotless. This brief tour of Germany was simply an extension to that. to her knowledge. He managed to get himself turned around while walking and wound up on the short straße by error. A relative was killed in the fighting in France and he wanted to see if it was possible to view the resting place.The rooms offered a cloying unpleasant stench of feral animal as if it were some she-bear’s den. She found the medals in one of the drawers while she was cleaning on that rare occasion when she was allowed in but had no idea where he kept the gun. Ronald James Wiggins. These were his last few days in Berlin. The only laundry service she was regularly allowed to provide was the bed linen but that was barely once a month. when she would find them bundled up and placed in the hallway. She was left pretty much on her own. and indeed. in Germany. He rushed to offer assistance. She enjoyed her position and they were hard to find these days. Frau Dunst complained that she was allowed into these rooms only occasionally. He was trying. and those occasions became fewer. Wiggins was an Englishman from Somerset. His given reason for being in front of Rittenauer’s house to hear the gunshot was coincidence. whose name could not be determined by the faint carbon imprint. He was always a quiet man and the only sound that came from his rooms was gramophone music that she seldom recognised but guessed was Wagner. entered the room together following the policemen. He was making his way back to his incorrect turning and was passing the house when he heard the definite sound of a single gunshot.
22 . which he was more than happy to do. Other than that. but he was able. whereupon I imagined I would respond with something of equal or more brilliant profundity by way of retort. Those moments were wasted for I could not determine the direction of his query much less provide an answer that could be deemed suitable. he was unbearable in victory. He pushed it open in time to see the distressed Frau Dunst at the door to the suite. more than noticed. I much preferred being one step ahead of Alec. Wiggins asked for and received permission to return home to England. Our meals arrived during the reading of the document and our points and comments were punctuated by stabbing forks in the air between the movements of morsels from plate to mouth. lost in our own thoughts and I compared the demented image of the man thrusting a gun barrel under his chin with that of the calm young man.thought better of pounding on the door as it might alert the shooter to make his escape. as it was not likely any inquest would be held into the affair. for that was the easy way of our friendship. grim. He tested the door and found it unlocked. and the bullet traversed through the soft tissue and exited the skull. All of Wiggins’ documents were in order and they verified his summary of his travels. detached and most of all. for though he was gracious in defeat. His command of the language was barely adequate to get by in daily communication of his needs. The spent bullet was found amid the gore under the body where it lay on the floor. tiled room that seldom saw emotion. We both grew silent. thus giving me precious moments to consider his question. taking a large chunk of bone with it. Neither medical report nor the written statement by Wiggins was appended. I sensed. lying still in death in a cold. to get Frau Dunst to understand his offer to assist. “What do you suppose Schlage is up to”? I was in the process of stuffing a forkful of apfel-strudel into my maw and unable to reply. a poor winner by any standard. and it never occurred to him to verify the time but he estimated it was only within a few minutes of his first contact with the police officers. the document was thorough. I hated having to admit that I had no idea what he was talking about. The gun barrel had been pressed up under the chin as confirmed by powder burns. and it was consistent with the notes taken verbally at the scene. He was asked to give the exact time of the gunshot but he had no idea. He was asked to complete a written statement. finally. that Alec was about to say something rather profound. The body was taken to a city hospital and transferred to the police morgue. Two medical examinations found the cause of death to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
some of the wait-staff had seen. and it was entirely the fault of the pedestrian. the more I reviewed the whole sequence of events that led to our next appointment. and suggests we might like a grand tour of the scene of the event. “Just a minute. and even talked to Rittenauer far more frequently than either Alec or I. Does that not strike even you. as odd? Whenever did you last have a policeman offer to be your friend. We apologized for our intrusion. And now. Why not ask the proprietors to make the identification of the body? Surely. I could not even get the death details. offers us a copy of the actual report. It is one of his least desirable qualities. and nodded knowingly. asks us to view the body. I suspect that Herr 23 . old chum. Slow as turtles. I think we should go and beard our friend. Alec simply grinned that annoying grin of his when he has outmanoeuvred you or bested you. bitte. She was distraught over the event and Schlage soothed her distress by informing her that the investigation was likely to last for a considerable time and she need be in no hurry to make her arrangements. an American was run down by an automobile. “Finally. In fact. had given the housekeeper permission to remain domiciled at the residence until the investigation was finished. Why didn’t Frau Dunst go to the morgue? And why didn’t Schlage bother to mention a housekeeper? For that matter. Ernst. call me Ernst. Ernst. I was given short shrift. There was nothing the driver of the auto could do to prevent the accident. and whenever did you begin trusting policemen”? Being phrased that way. I am sure I remember that it is your turn to pay for the meal. I thought it would be good copy for a slow day and requested to see the police report. Schlage. Ernst. in his den. finally. he seemed to go to some length to tell us what happened but told us absolutely nothing other than Rittenauer apparently killed himself with his service pistol”. He kills himself in pretty obvious circumstance and Herr Schlage. here is Rittenauer.“Why should Schlage be up to anything”? “Some three months ago. the more odd it all became. yes it did strike me as odd. Nicht wahr”? Ernst Schlage acquainted us with Frau Dunst by informing her that we were friends of Herr Rittenauer and were assisting him in finalizing some details. it seems. even though he died in hospital from some internal disorder as a result of the accident. a German national about whom we know little and have no claim upon. bitte. Schlage said he interviewed the proprietors of the rathskeller to get my name. He stepped off the tram and into the path of the vehicle.
You cannot look for something that does not exist. Alec picked up two of the screws and Schlage took one pace forward. my turn. and why he had chosen us to become so intimately involved with this investigation. in retrospect. Alec partially closed the entry door in order to examine the wood there. I watched Alec’s examinations of those things I had looked at and studied before. perhaps not a good idea. still poring over objects. was taken to police headquarters for safekeeping. and I still had no clue as to what he was up to. It would be a nice endorsement adding to my stature if. meanwhile. and suddenly realized what 24 . as if I were on the right track all along. and I wondered if Alec. Alec and I wandered the floor examining. fingered the evidence. We noted the table. thank God. The bentwood chair lay on its back on the floor as found. Alec began to closely examine what was left of the mortise the deadbolt had rent. The truth is I was bored. Still holding the screws. the items detailed on the copy of the report. Herr Schlage was. was merely feigning an interest. Schlage spoke only to inform us what we should be expecting to find as we slid-open drawers or looked under furniture or probed closets. probed and. The rooms were exactly as found when Ernst planted his boot against the entry door. I really wanted to finish up and forget about it. We wandered from room to room as if planning to upgrade the police report. The gun. This was the third time he performed these same observations. It was now. You cannot find something that is not there. too. excepting for the removal of the body. the glass. tested the sash lock and took note of the key in the door and the broken night-chain. the schnapps. Schlage patiently waited in the sitting room while we touched. I could see no value in this exploration. We. the helmet. in order.Schlage either overstepped his authority by making such a promise or sensed something about the event that escaped the obvious. presumably scattered from the door hardware when all was kicked asunder. Alec squatted to examine some screws. He edged back to the door where I was standing and studied the splintered wood as I had been doing. moving slowly closer as if subjected to some great magnetic force of attraction that involuntarily drew him in. and all those items that filled the report in the manner of someone completing a stock-take of some bankrupt warehouse. and he did so all the while under the very watchful eye of Herr Schlage. I spent more time than necessary admiring the splintered doorjamb and the extent of the damage caused by one well-placed kick. It was at that same moment that I detected a stiffening of attention in the posture of Herr Schlage. the bullets. though doubtless having been shunted somewhat out of position when the body was lifted. we were told. I was able to say that I was sensing something was wrong even at that moment. especially so as Ernst had done it all before us. I was stymied.
The leap from something being wrong. as they appear. I cautioned myself that I really needed to catch up. and what was there but should not have been. Any hunch I have I follow only to where it leads. and I had the feeling that Schlage had brought us here because it appealed to his sense of humour. seems to be Mr Wiggins”. That is why I allowed you both to make that discovery for yourselves. may not be facts. But if I were a betting man. nodded. not to where it might lead. I had only just reconciled my mind to believing that something was wrong with the obvious and I was far from the next step of what that something wrong implied. A uniformed policeman sitting at a table in plain view was not good for custom. “It is not in my nature to be a gambler. “It is enough”? The softly spoken words by Ernst Schlage answered my question of why he was allowing us such uninterrupted access to the scene. it is enough”. Herr Schlage. if just for the sake of appearance. Wiggins cannot be implicated.was not there but should have been. Alec. And the only person likely. “Who do you suspect”? Alec’s question directed to the policeman caught me off guard. I was caught mentally lagging behind the flow of conversation yet again. “Wiggins? Do you really suspect Wiggins? How would it be possible for him to have a hand in Rittenauer’s death. Does he look to be a criminal type? Is it possible he and the housekeeper are staging something in concert”? 25 . But the facts. my wager would be on the Englishman. “Jawohl. no. to determination of a culprit just seemed too desperate a jump of conclusion and I felt the need to voice an objection. Wiggins”. holding the screws close to his eyes for minute examination. It was a place frequented by what was called the café crowd: artists and writers in imitation of the left-bank aesthetes of Paris. “I still don’t understand why Wiggins. I believe only in things that are certain or absolute. We drove in the police Opel to an outdoor café on the Kurfürstendamm. given the facts”? “Given the facts as they appear. at this stage.
a little mixed up. That is why Mr Wiggins is of interest to me”. all of her meals included and a wage besides. Parts of his story should not have agreed so that we would have to go back and ask him again to clarify some things. was an idyllic enchantment. horse-carriages. looking slightly alarmed. The answers he gave to my colleague matched precisely the details he committed to paper. Some lies that people tell are designed to fill in a gap.” “I have been a policeman for a long time. We. and young men in straw hats and pretty girls in close-fitting dresses. We have not found any relatives of Rittenauer nor is there any evidence he created papers that might have provoked his housekeeper into killing him for the profit thereof. It was pleasant sitting there on the Ku’damm in the afternoon. That shouldn’t have been so. It may not be black is red type of lie. I was in love with Berlin. I fancied I saw a reproving look pass over his face as he glared at Alec. almost always find the truth and so we wonder what reason that person had for lying. Mr Wiggins had no gaps. She is entirely without motive. People almost always lie to policemen. of course. reached over to snatch them from his fingers and to pocket them in his own coat. Mr Wiggins appeared shaken and disturbed by the event he witnessed and was an unwitting participant in. He made as if to examine them again and Schlage. but everyone is wary of somehow incriminating themselves. If that were so then we could simply arrest all of those who fitted the type because sooner or later they would commit a crime. Frau Dunst is not even to be considered. They feel that if there is a gap then there may have been time for them to commit a crime and so they stretch things to fill in the gaps. she stands to lose far too much. and that should not have happened. and I want to know why. I was loath to pursue this enigma of the even more enigmatic Herr Rittenauer. so they do not always tell the truth. “There is no such thing as a criminal type. Everything he said he had done and where he had been was all plainly visible.Alec had said nothing since posing his first question and he reached into the pocket of his shirt to withdraw the screws he picked up from the floor earlier. There are some things I have learned. He should have been a little confused. And sitting here in spring’s warmth. But no one can account for every minute. watching the traffic of automobiles. 26 . Everything he reported was consistent and plausible. the minutes go by without notice and police investigators can tell when someone is stretching the fabric of their story to fill a gap. For as long as Rittenauer lived. she would not hear from him from one month to the next. Her job was not difficult because Rittenauer made very few demands and I suspect that if Frau Dunst merely left his meals at his door. drinking strong coffee and eating tempting Viennese-pastries while the world passed by outside my table. No. she had a place to live. But everything fitted exactly.
itself.“I fail to see why. as you put it. I would have thought other evidence suggesting that Rittenauer was alone in the room is pretty conclusive. “He has not escaped. And what does the door suggest other than there being something possibly amiss”? “I would have been suspicious if even one thing did not make sense. but each screw-hole for the striker-plate was intact. There was not much left of the mortise in the doorjamb. where it landed after supposedly being ripped from the jamb by the deadbolt. He only believes that he is safe. it is my job to prove that they are criminals and need to be brought to justice”. “The striker-plate was on the floor. “You discovered the screws on the floor all lying close together when. Had they been yanked out of the wood. and there was no good reason for them to have been flung from the plate. he will not hinder the investigation by destroying evidence that might implicate him. And when there are several things in the investigation that do not make sense then the presented facts of the investigation must be wrong”. you allowed him to escape home to England and out of your reach”. There were several. would have bent before releasing. The only thing that would account for that would be if they were carefully unscrewed from the timber first”. And why were none of those screws found on the floor. He mopped his face with a napkin and drained his coffee cup. amiss. by rights. It is not my job to bring criminals to justice. but neither of the screws was still attached. The wood fibres are missing. The fittings on the door may have been tampered with days before he was killed and have nothing at all to do with his death. if you believe Wiggins has some connection to this crime. That. they should have been flung apart. bent? At least one screw. they should have some fibres of the wood attached somewhere on their length. As you saw. The 27 . and that being so. “Was the anomaly of the door sufficient to create your suspicion that someone else may have been there with Rittenauer? There is no proof that something is actually amiss with the door. It should have dragged its screws along with it. there was clear evidence of the threading in the holes. Alec had been struggling to consume an expensive cream-filled confection with some degree of dignity or at least to avoid spilling it over his attire and had remained silent through all of this. is odd. presumably. But once my suspicion was aroused. I began to look for other things that might also make no sense. I may not have pursued the investigation if it had been only the one thing. None of the screws has any wood adhering to it. although I agree it would certainly seem so.
that may have nothing at all to do with the event of that afternoon. on reflection. Tell me. did either of you happen to souvenir anything from the battlefields of France. like a handgun. when you find one thing suspicious. An examination of the hole shows that it has been reamed. The door and the locking mechanism had obviously been tampered with before we arrived. I recalled what he said about people not wanting to tell the truth to policemen. “Would I be correct to say it was service issue and. you are prompted to look for others. I wondered. perhaps”? I immediately sympathised with my German friends who are reluctant to admit involvement with the war. those screws may have been removed and the night-chain position altered at any time in the past”. It is in a trophy case at my father’s house. a 9mm Luger P08 with 8-round magazine”. “But even so. along with some other memorabilia. a consequence of the slide having been yanked off the door. I tried not to look guilty while it was Alec who responded. the night-chain slide was secured by only one screw and that screw was in the wrong position. “Ach so! But as I replied. That can only mean the screws of the striker-plate were carefully removed before I kicked the door in”. they are differently sized. Alec. but his summing up was much as I deduced when Alec’s examination of the doorjamb prompted me to see the anomaly.” “Ach so! Will you describe it for me”? “It is what you would expect. to start to dissemble and seek to change subjects. As Alec pointed out. The other hole is intact. I managed to smuggle it home in fact. scouring the hole like a rasp. “Well.threads should have ripped out. I happened to.” I did not see the weight of evidence quite as clearly as Schlage. My own first reaction to the question was to ask in turn. Clearly. If you examine the screwholes in the door. I sat forward as I 28 . what made him think I was in the war. The one next to the jamb is larger. Ernst. that screw was carefully unscrewed before the event as well. previously held by a German soldier in the field”? This was one of those moments when I would expect my friend. For some reason I have not yet determined. if Herr Schlage had done some homework long before he left a message for me to call him. not to be indelicate. “The slide of the night-chain still had one screw attached and it was bent as the slide was torn from the door.
That of course. “So why. The question is. Nor did I find anywhere the gun would have been normally kept. and I did check very carefully. was issued with a 7. my own reaction was curious on seeing these relics of the war. I found only a bayonet. I found no hiding places. The brass cartridges were clean and shiny. Ernst was agreeably nodding his head and a small smile of triumph played on his lips as if he held the trump card. But did you find a gun cleaning kit anywhere? Did you find the source of the oil on the rag? I did not. I do not believe Rittenauer owned a gun and that means someone either gave it to him. or used it on him. “Then why do you suppose our friend. durchaus nicht! When I first learned of your interest in Rittenauer. a couple of knives and a steel helmet. who cleaned them or who had recently purchased them? I saw you both finger the oily cloth on the table. Alec and I had inspected it also and noted the bayonet on a leather belt and the stahlhelm that rested on a peg attached to the wall. yet there were three additional rounds on the table. I did not notice you sniff at it so it was clear to you. at the back of his closet. If they had been stored in a drawer or a sock under the bed or something. who”? The closet to which Ernst referred was little more than an alcove fronted by simple wardrobe doors. Sergeant Rittenauer. are we here? might somehow be involved”? Do you think that one of us “Nein. not like something that has been put away forever. so far friendly but probing interrogation. of course. The simple declaration did not somehow surprise me but I could tell.was most interested in what his reaction might be from this. and doubtless Ernst could too. means you are both very familiar with such things. “Yes”. by the way. Herr Schlage. Nein. that it was light gun-oil. However. simply from touch. that Alec wanted to say a whole lot more about the incident yet prudently chose to bide his tongue. a stahlhelm. for the sight of the familiar coalscuttle helmet was far more ominous and threatening to me and recreated more sinister images than did the potential of the dangerous bayonet. But when I quickly discounted you and was able to remove you from any possible 29 . So. Did you find a box of ammunition anywhere in his rooms? I did not.65mm Luger Pistole that has not been in use since about 1908? The magazine was full except for the round that was put into Rittenauer’s head. Both items seemed to be hung there to wait the moment of a call to arms when they would be donned again. they would have dulled. you both became suspects. There was no place in any of the drawers that showed where the gun might have rested. whose use or need is long past.
The scene in that room was designed to tell a story. like a dagger dipped in poison. and if so. Many of those do not intend to die. to my amusement. He is fondling and wiping his pistol. It is a selfish and petulant act performed by a very self-absorbed person. He wiped them with his finger and transferred them to his mouth before speaking.involvement. was also capable of mind reading. we have a veteran sitting alone in his rooms staring at old photographs of comrades. like the pickelhaube and his medals for valour and bravery. To find one. why had he then chosen to keep it hidden from me. I realised that you both could be of some invaluable assistance to me”. He is drinking schnapps and maybe trying on the helmet. I often do not come off to advantage in this narrative because dear Alec would seem to be of quicker mind and is thus more quickly off the mark. He becomes despondent and shoots himself. So. but the note. From his next comment. It was the case in this instance as well. All who profess knowledge of you agree. why did they not adorn the table as well in this intimate reverie you describe”? The three of us remained silent for some lengthy period. “It was necessary only to contact one of you. it seemed our friend. Except there is nothing to suggest he ever owned such a weapon. But would he not have left a note or something”? “People who intentionally kill themselves generally do so to relieve themselves of pain. He is also looking at a young girl’s photograph. Both? I wondered if Alec had also received a message from Herr Schlage. “Presumably. each involved in thoughts of our own. What story did it tell both of you”? Alec. I also believe the pickelhaube shared the closet with stahlhelm and bayonet belt. I would have been disappointed had Alec not been dragged along to the morgue with you and I was delighted to discover what I had been told about you was corroborated. you need only find the other. It is a condemnation. In the case of our Sergeant Rittenauer. blaming them for not being able to solve their problems or of relieving the pain. it is a release. Those who leave notes generally do so to cause pain to others. someone very dear to him considering the expensive framing for her picture. You are inseparable. 30 . But let us get back to the problem at hand. was staring wistfully at the crumb remains of the pastry on his plate. they expect to be discovered in time. your telling of the story could have been most likely quite correct. holding her picture close to him. He has several mementoes of those years. remains to be thrust into the heart of the other person or family. Ernst.
“Ah. My knowledge of such things led me to agree with Ernst on probable outcomes. but a confederate. Wiggins. give or take. We have not been able to find the source of his income as yet. We learned roughly how much he drank every week. he would go into town in the afternoon. You have resources that I do not have without the need to explain my reasons for wanting them.“Two questions then. Because he would not need her for those hours. Now that he is back in England. another injustice played upon Herr Rittenauer”. though we shall in due course. I would get a brief but pointed letter from my superiors and that would be the end of it. and though we are here at my choosing—”. She believed he was on a pension and went to collect his stipend on those days. There was a slight hesitation on the part of Ernst. he had not made a purchase of a gun that day. I am sure he never made any such purchase. I reached across the table to give my hand upon the deal. Ernst. perhaps dropping into a rathskeller for a meal and a drink. in this case the British government. what the amount was that he received every week. And if the motives of my investigation were made clear to them. and purchased a weapon recently? And how is it that we can be of help to you. She saw him on occasion going to the post-office. “I am convinced that the Englishman. Clearly. he no longer appeared to look like a policeman. “Rittenauer lived from week to week. Alec. this is a matter of some delicacy. was recovered from his body. murdered Rittenauer. it poses some slight problem in investigating him. we were able to calculate quite precisely. with a smirk in my direction that intimated I had stolen a march. they would most likely go over my head to quash any investigation and claim it was a regrettable but clear-cut case of suicide. he never owned a gun”. Your governments do not take too kindly to such requests from a defeated enemy despite the appearance of cooperation. and for the first time since our initial meeting. This amount of money. We stood to adjourn and it was time to settle the account. the day upon which he was killed. He would be gone for several hours. but you might realise that we policemen are not paid what is considered a princely sum. and knowing his other expenses. He was in need of our assistance. Frau Dunst told me that on the same day of every week. she would leave shortly behind him to attend to her own duties in town. for you seem to have gotten this mystery by the throat already”? A benevolent smile came over Ernst’s face as if some matter of urgent concern had been resolved to his immense satisfaction. 31 . What of the possibility that Rittenauer decided to ease his pain. did likewise. But he was a predictable man.
He is huge in a country-oaf manner and stands inches taller than either of us. That would be to your peril. He was. Ernst is formidable. though I do like to consider myself a handy batsman and Alec fancies himself at gridiron. The reason. I did not like shaking his hand for it was like trusting your hand to a bear’s paw. eating simple meals out of the same saucepan in which it was cooked and finding his entertainment at the cinema. Alec and I are both over six feet. It was made to appear as if we were currying favour with this representative of the Schutzpolizei as an aid to our occupation. To this end. and Alec is a wiry individual that causes some hesitation in a person wishing to be belligerent. Neither Alec nor I.He left the sentence dangling but the inference was clear and I promptly paid for our repast. His manner matches his appearance of country-oaf and it is tempting to dismiss him as bumbling and witless. as I discovered to my absolute amazement. Ernst impressed upon us the need to keep our meetings informal to avoid speculation by those who might take an interest in such things and such meetings. play any musical instrument or display any talent other than that of our chosen career. We are both daunted by Ernst. by way of footnote. I am slightly heavier than Alec and am also considered a challenge despite what I am told are my boyish good looks. in military uniform of some splendour. Alec and I made our way to the parked Opel while Ernst excused himself briefly and entered the café. far subtler than what you would expect from his appearance. had drawn into its precincts. is that up to this point. never at police headquarters or at our offices. and certainly deeper than you would prefer. We met only at public venues. father to three children. hung on walls of his home. married to a diminutive woman of immense charm and beauty. he was merely a Berlin policeman and it is enough simply to say so and let it go. In a word. four years previous. he also was an accomplished violinist. all of whom were accomplished musicians and played classical music in a Berlin youth orchestra. He lived in a fine. His mind is more nimble than most and leaps to conclusions far out of the reach of the rest of us. There were photographs and portraits of similar-looking men to Ernst. large house on an estate that the Greater Berlin Act. I envisioned him living alone in some dingy one-roomed apartment somewhere. Ernst Schlage. I thought him to be humourless but I soon discovered that his humour is on a different plane. He came out mere minutes later and drove us to our respective offices. I assumed these to be his forebears and the photograph of a Prussian officer with several decorations was a remarkable likeness. Ernst. of less than a decade earlier. I suppose. and I was certain I was looking at the man. I am somewhat remiss in not having described our friend. He is Nordic-blonde with blue eyes but the eyes tend to look deeper than what you would expect. To my astonishment. most of our meetings were held in restaurants and rathskellers where Alec or I were clearly seen to be 32 .
I enjoyed my correspondence with Chesterton. I only hoped I did not look as dishevelled in my dress as I felt dishevelled in my brain. This was the usual less than loquacious response by Ernst made at the first of those meetings. Alec arrived not long after and to my extreme disappointment and slight annoyance looked as healthy and hale as Ernst. France. Ernst always had a brief moment with the proprietors before our departure. in a rather surprising and high-handed move. Franco-American relations were at an all time high compared to the entente cordiale that described Anglo-French relations in that year. Such pronouncements. If we are to believe that Wiggins murdered the sergeant. I discovered. It was supported by Britain but not with any good grace. It probably wasn’t necessary but I always felt less encumbered if I mentioned these assumptions to him and didn’t take such liberties for granted. His ability to distil nebulous problems to a few brief sentences showed clarity of mind that I sadly lacked at any early-morning meeting.hosting the policeman. caused him to beam at you like some proud and approving parent at a child who has completed some challenging task. I was curious but assumed it was either in his official capacity or perhaps to remind them that our meeting was to be forgotten. Rittenauer never left Bavaria until the war. We met in the very early morning to discuss a strategy to assist our ursine friend with his investigation. it is clear he never spent much time in Bavaria in the past”. And Wiggins speaks the language so clumsily. I promised Ernst I would begin my enquiries of Wiggins that same day. occupied the Ruhr. I owed Chesterton a personal letter and I needed to ask him for permission to use the paper’s resources. The romance of cloak and dagger tends to lead to such assumptions. I tentatively resolved to start getting to bed earlier. The most obvious connection is one of location. or provided him with the gun to take his own life. I tend to dislike subterfuge but there was an inherent clandestine element that appealed to me. It was like writing to my father without the guilt 33 . I stayed very late at the office completing my copy and making notes to myself to follow up on other stories that I hoped might lead to something likely to cause my employer to beam at me in that same manner. It was at a café on the Ku’damm not far from my own apartment whose bed I was sorely in need of at the moment. I had a headache. Alec agreed to use his connections in France to attempt to trace and verify Wiggins’ activities in that country before making his way into Germany. then we need to establish a connection between Wiggins and Rittenauer. “People murder people only with reason unless they are a sociopath. According to records. Where were they likely to have met before? My guess is that they met on the battlefields of France. as I had agreed with Ernst to do.
his employer’s expense. what urged it into my idling brain. Ernst always looked apologetic but I was looking forward to a large repast at Alec’s expense. I am waiting though I do not know for what. I am alone but strewn about me are bodies of my comrades. Details from an Attestation form for Ronald Wiggins of Somerset followed. We had only begun our meal when I laid out all of the information I was able to retrieve on our man. Each has a single hole in his forehead. Ernst was pouring the opened bottle of red wine that had been left to breathe and appeared as if he had not heard me. I thought that might be so”. I withheld the bombshell until the appropriate theatrical moment. I am seated at the edge of a shell-crater in France. His letters back were always brief but warm and you could tell they were personal and heartfelt. and that was followed by some disturbing news. he would simply direct an editor to respond or dictate a letter to a secretary among the normal mailings he was obliged to handle in the course of a business day. Chapter 4 It was nearly ten o’clock before I sent instructions over the wire to the paper to check through gazetted items for references to Ronald James Wiggins and to search for Attestations for a man of that name from Somerset. When that moment was ripe. Otherwise. I broke the news that Ronald James Wiggins of Somerset was dead. It was a long day. I realize what it means. There were several additional references sent me to a Wiggins other than those I have already mentioned. When I awake and can remember the dream. I was finishing that portion of the letter directed to items of a personal nature rather than those that were work related. I had a bombshell to drop upon them and I was keenly interested in seeing their expressions when it fell. disagreeably. I began it thus: We all have odd dreams. It was Alec’s turn to buy our lunch. and hovered for a moment to find a beginning for the tale of Sergeant Rittenauer. “Yes. confirmed. in the normal pattern of business communication. I didn’t know quite what to make of it and requested verification. I was tired and hungry but mostly tired. I have such a recurring dream. or rather.associated with an absence of contact. but it was likely many of these were not the same person. dreams whose significance is known only to ourselves and whose context is meaningful only to ourselves. dreams that are purely personal. I arranged a meeting with Alec and Ernst when the information was. I tidied up my desk and took a taxi home and went to bed. It was not long before I received the information that Lance Corporal R Wiggins received the Military Medal for conspicuous gallantry. 34 . I often wonder how many times I have stood within the crosshairs of a sniper’s gun-sight and it was not my turn to die. Alec froze with the news and shot me a look to see if I were joking.
If that is what happened. Ernst. It was. then the next guess must be that a certain sniper sergeant known to us killed him. how are you going to explain away the door being locked. a dud and did not explode and for that matter. to my disgust. “Tell me. and the key in the lock on the inside and everything”? “I don’t have to explain it. If that is proved. He replaced the bottle carefully and sipped his wine without the ostentation of swirling the glass or sniffing the bouquet. You must start thinking like investigators. So the man he is pretending to be is likely dead. are you good at it”? “Ja. I had none to give and when he realised that fact. not the least of which was my regard for the bear of a man sitting opposite me. Do you wish to play me a game some time”? “No. No murderer or criminal is going to do that unless the papers are false or the identity is forged. then we can figure out who the real Wiggins is. and if you do. My guess is that the real Wiggins was on the opposite side of a trench to Rittenauer’s army group. I dropped my bomb with great anticipation. he shook his head in a tut-tutting manner. That was Berlin for weeks at 35 . I fear we both would be just wasting our time”. I needed to re-evaluate many things. Ernst. Wiggins freely gave us all of his details and papers. These are days that gladden my heart and quicken my step. Do you play chess. who is pretending to be a dead man. and why that particular dead man? If we can figure out why he chose that particular dead man to impersonate. You have done well”. So. He evidently was waiting to hear my reply. You must be expecting the news. He then thought of something and cleared his throat.Alec and I exchanged stares and then looked at Ernst in our consternation. Alec put down his glass of wine. Herr Schlage had trumped me once more and Alec was enjoying the spectacle. He turned to look at me with that smile on his face that was not one of his better qualities. it hardly made a decent thud. I play chess and I believe that I play it well. Clearly. That is good news. “You must stop thinking like someone who only reports the news. “If you are going to make a case against the man posing as Wiggins. then revenge may be the motive behind Rittenauer’s death. There are bright summer days when the air remains cool and the sky is vaulted with blue like a watercolour sketch. I only have to confront him with it and he will have to explain it”. not waiting for it to jump up and surprise you.
I now had Chesterton’s blessings. for I had written several small stories. We read the war diaries of Wiggins’ company commander. I kept Chesterton informed of our progress and regaled him with my comments on the redoubtable Ernst Schlage. That makes 29 so far that he has accounted for. They ambushed the Hun digging a camouflet near CIVET trench and went at them with rifle-bayonets. and of my interest in the enigmatic Herr Rittenauer and my desire to seek justice for him. to push and jostle for control of the moment. killing our man and causing enough confusion for three of the prisoners to escape to the safety of their own perimeter. The inflated economy was pushing even essential everyday-items beyond the reach of most citizens. I ignored also a comment which I hoped to be jocular. and I began to make some ground. and resulted in frustration and resentment. Another of our men was picked off this morning as he returned from a night-patrol. I smiled as I read the penultimate paragraph that suggested that it should not be considered an excuse to exceed my accounting-budget with regard to expenses. warm note on his personal stationery and some comments regarding this 36 . if justice need be done. We read the casualty figures and we interviewed men who were there. 1918. The diary entry was dated October 12. I was always under the impression that he saw her as a whore and treated her thus. killing six. This created shortages in most things we take for granted at other times. I met Roth on occasion and though it was said that he bore a love-hate relation with Berlin. a way of telling me he had received my lengthy letter and would reply soon. Horse-drawn cabs took people to appointments at leisurely pace. was added at the behest of Chesterton. I received from Mr Chesterton a brief. Handsome young women in white dresses and summer hats paraded the streets and smiled at handsome young men who hoped to make them smile. As the Huns were being led back to our lines.a time that year. I received instructions from my editor to continue my investigations into the Rittenauer affair. I wondered if the man posing as Wiggins could hear the bloodhounds baying in the distance. that my writings were far below that of my contemporary. I knew. Joseph Roth. the full resources of the paper to work with if need be. There was a carefully pencilled note in one diary report: A German sniper is playing hell with us. a sharp edge that made it all seem fleeting and tense. vignettes of life here in my beloved Berlin. There was always the feeling that at any moment it could all erupt as political factions waged their own fights. and simply included them without comment in my mailings to the attention of my editor. Sergeant Pentecost led a patrol to take enemy prisoners. and taking five prisoners. the sniper opened fire. But there was an undercurrent. This. It made Berlin a volatile city and kept me busy reporting on it all. We saw the maps of the trenches and the opposing forces.
It was odd. drawing his legs under him and leaned forward to peer at one comment of his notes. They followed almost precisely the movements of Wiggins’ battalion right up to the date when the trenches grew silent and German troops began to move back from the line. as ever. Ernst had by reason alone convinced us that Rittenauer died by someone else’s hand and that the likely hand was that of the man pretending to be Wiggins. He made no reference to it whatsoever and I wondered what was his intent. But who was the man posing as Wiggins. Alec. Our meeting that day was at Herr Schlage’s home. and I was never able to detect which. He barely finished the comment as the image of Rittenauer with his medals and his strange table companion struck us both.quest. Frau Schlage served us lemonade in the garden and Ernst. I even detected a difference in his speech in these surroundings. I was able to establish that Wiggins died by sniper fire and that clearly suggested that Wiggins was the man being avenged. it was axiomatic that the reason behind the murder was revenge. Wiggins stayed at a small pension in France and was described by the owner as an Englishman in an ill-fitting brown suit and fedora hat”. It took on significance simply because it was isolated from comment and had me wondering of its purpose. had been able to trace our man’s movements through France. Ernst was always polite and I never heard him resort to profanity but one or the other of his personae altered to reflect its image. Ernst tried to get us to reconstruct exactly what we saw that evening and asked defining 37 . especially those who were bald either by heredity or by razor. indeed. and I thought that his close-cropped hair afforded him no protection from being broiled. meanwhile. who was the avenger? We needed some string to lead us to the man. once again. Ernst saw our revelation and queried us. for it did not look like an afterthought. We explained what happened on that night and why it had no import to us then. We sat in full sun enjoying its warmth and trying to construct some bridge to span the gap of what we knew and what we couldn’t. but he showed no discomfort. Ernst was hatless in the style of so many Berliners. having led us to this certainty. It would appear. “Listen to this. He enclosed also a page copied from an Attestation for Albert Thomas Wiggins from Dorset. Alec was eased into his chair with his long legs spread out in front. Moreover. ankles crossed and studying his notes. It is odd how a man can live such disparate lives. that Ernst had been able to predict the outcome like some gypsy fortune-teller. was the perfect host. He suddenly straightened.
This was because Albert. knowing it would lead us to our quarry.questions for each aspect of our story. Ronald and several of his mates enlisted following the outbreak of war. string in hand. He queried what we meant when we mentioned the ill-fitting. It was Alec who drew the comparison to a younger brother dressing up in his big brother’s clothes. and against the wishes of both his brother and his aunt. He requested information on the whereabouts of certain other soldiers serving with his brother. There were one or two 38 . They too had all been added to the sniper’s tally. Albert requested a transfer to his brother’s battalion but this was refused in a personal letter between battalion commanding officers. volunteered. Both Ernst and Alec waited patiently for me to compile it all. much-loved brother. through channels. cared for Albert. There was our bridge across the Rubicon and so we crossed it. Notes in his record seemed to indicate that he attempted to remain as a career-soldier but things also hinted at involuntary discharge. and his Attestation form declared the aunt as next of kin. and we agreed that it was indeed a similar effect to a too-large suit of clothes. living in Dorset. that he be sent to a hospital for evaluation after the lieutenant found him repeatedly punching. Their parents died together in the tragic circumstances of the same accident and his elder. Ronald and Albert Wiggins were brothers. Albert was demobbed in due course following the end of the war and simply fell off the face of the earth. At fortnight’s end. I mentally examined that image for maybe a half-minute and then remembered Albert Thomas Wiggins of Dorset. The aunt died in her sleep the following year. Albert came of age in 1917. still too young to enlist. A lieutenant in his battalion recommended. Ronald. A cryptic comment in the company records. went to live with the aunt. and described as his brother’s mates. kicking and bayoneting the corpse of an enemy soldier following a brief battle when the Germans counter-attacked a recently won position. Albert was placed on report on several occasions for fits of temper or rage. written by the officer who had been the bearer of the news said: he did not take this information well. Albert requested permission in late summer of 1918 to visit his brother who was with another battalion in the front lines. He nearly beat a barracks-mate to death because of a suspicion he had stolen Albert’s razor. It took us another two weeks to gather the needed evidence together. It was a far simpler task now that we knew precisely what information we sought and where we were likely to find it. Their only other relative was a maternal aunt of poor health. some eight-years-apart in age. rumpled suit. He was to discover that a sniper had killed his brother less than two weeks before. we had our story pieced together and we were able to read the tapestry of tragedy. “What do you mean? Did it look as if the suit was too big for him”? What appeared to be a rumpled brown suit now took on a different interpretation.
“We know that both Rittenauer and Frau Dunst left the house in the early afternoon. He then entered the house in some manner not yet determined. Wiggins did not shoot Rittenauer by magic. the one shortly after the other.65mm model. The most significant breakthrough was the result of some personal digging by a reporter of my acquaintance who was junior to me in 1921 and with whom I held good rapport. and at best would be found circumstantial. The case against Albert Thomas Wiggins was now. However. began to source suppliers of weapons to whom Albert had easy access and found on his first interview the dealer who sold Albert the Luger 7. The dealer was sceptical and tempted to refuse but happened to know where he could lay his hands on the 7. though we were satisfied. which made him visible again momentarily. Alec said as much. and now someone to whom I was indebted. and I for one. Two problems remained however: the first was that. Albert sought the Luger automatic but wanted one that showed signs of much use and wear. doubted such a strong case could be made given the circumstances of the locked room. Wiggins must have been waiting nearby and seen them both leave. The dealer said that he could quickly manufacture a replica. We know that the door to Rittenauer’s rooms was probably locked because Frau Dunst tells us that it was his practice to keep the door locked even when he was 39 . The inspired reporter. All of these references located him in Dorset. He explained it was to be used in a war museum display and a new gun would look out of place. proved. He recognised the photograph of Albert the reporter had with him and recalled the peculiar incident clearly.65mm Parabellum. We need to reconstruct what must have happened and leave out how it was performed”. a far better idea for use in a museum to which the public had access. it would have to be proved in the courts. the dealer was only able to acquire an even dozen of the Parabellum rounds. “The fact that an illusionist has performed some trick to which you do not know the answer doesn’t mean you must believe in magic to accept the evidence of your own eyes. You either attempt to recreate the trick for yourself or simply accept it as an illusion and enjoy the performance. to our minds. Why he was assigned to this task is unknown to me but I suspect that it was some of Chesterton’s involvement. He was there. Albert insisted that it be a working model with the excuse that he wanted to fire it once or twice to get an idea for how it should be held. Albert suggested that viewers to the museum would not detect the calibre and a deal was struck. Ernst performed his tut-tutting head nod. Ernst identified the photograph that accompanied the receipt of our information positively and Alec and I were certain it to be the man we saw in the rathskeller. The second problem would be getting Albert Thomas into a court of law despite the belief of the long arm of that law.episodes requiring hospitalisation and these required reference to his war records.
He placed the screws on the floor. “I am only just guessing here. he needed to make good his escape and quickly. Wiggins probably heard someone arriving at the front door. Nothing needs explanation. and forced the door closed. Having shot him. like a nail file on his person or searched the rooms to find some tool to remove the screws from the striker-plate. the striker-plate would have fallen to the floor making a noise and Rittenauer may have had his attention diverted long enough for Wiggins to either grab him or point the gun at him. But Wiggins shot Rittenauer. If we attempt to prove what we do not already know. I do not know for certain. Beyond that and until he was shot by Wiggins is only speculation. When the door opened past the jamb. Depending on the extent of damage to the doorjamb when he first applied pressure to open the door. I suspect he may have employed the night-chain in case the door moved as Rittenauer tried to unlock it. then we only prove that we could be wrong. that was sufficient to give the feeling of a fully locked door. Maybe he only closed the front door behind him and waited on the other side until his sudden reappearance claiming he heard a gunshot. I suspect he either had some tool. That is not as easy as gaining access. “When Rittenauer returned home. It is far easier to suggest something does not exist than to prove it does. Perhaps he had already decided to confuse the authorities into thinking it was suicide and the extra few centimetres gave him enough of an opening to engage the slide before he ran from Rittenauer’s room”. quietly released the chain and waited. “But that doesn’t explain—”. The deadbolt could be pushed against the wood of the frame. Otherwise. Wiggins would not have wanted him to slam open the door and gain some advantage. before or after Frau Dunst. so to gain entry he needed to break in. I don’t know. he could have shimmed the door with some of the wood from the damaged jamb. Whether he had only made it to the door before Frau Dunst appeared. but the striker-plate would have not allowed it entry to the keeper. I don’t know”. there can be no doubt. He now had access to the room but the broken door would alert Rittenauer or Frau Dunst on their return”. Alec. There was no sign of tampering on the outside of the door from jimmy or a knife used as a jimmy. It is unlikely Wiggins had a key to the rooms. no. I suspect that Wiggins leant his weight against the door until the lock gave. he would have unlocked his door and entered the room as usual. Wiggins is now in the room but must close the door.inside. “No. slipped the striker-plate over the deadbolt. Why he modified the chain lock as he surely did. giving him some warning of the tampering if Wiggins did not hear him arrive home while Wiggins was prowling the quarters. We have all the proofs we need to show Wiggins must have 40 .
It is for him to provide the reasons he “If we can make a strong enough case against Wiggins. I was reluctant to leave but it was soon approaching a mealtime and it would have been impolite to stay longer. though we resumed our own dissolute ways in Berlin-after-dark. I could at least be the voice behind Rittenauer.murdered Herr Rittenauer. I would do this with a lengthy handwritten letter to Mr Chesterton and a shorter more dutiful one to my father. to wonder if I should write down a narrative of the events in case justice for Rittenauer took backseat to political considerations. Alec and I parted company on the Ku’damm. I received a telephone call from my contact and friend. at the office. It was almost now a month since we three last met and neither Alec nor I had come across Ernst. I paused in my letter. Chapter 5 Ernst had taken his wife and children to visit his wife’s parents for a week and Alec was sent by his editor to France to canvass opinion on events in the Ruhr. long neglected. Hunger won out and I took a cab to a small restaurant that I knew would not be too busy and unlikely to host anyone I knew. I tidied up and mentally tossed a coin as to whether I was more tired than hungry. He was guarded and asked me to meet with him the following afternoon at a predetermined time at the embassy. I felt somehow let down for there was little more I could do but watch as whatever course of action was taken inched its way past to an end. I needed to sort out my thoughts. The hours passed quickly enough and it was fully ten o’clock by the time I finished my writing in the pool of light from the lamp upon my desk. again in the pleasant gardens of Herr Schlage’s elegant home while drinking cold lemonade in tall glasses served by the equally elegant Frau Schlage. He requested that both Alec and Herr Schlage (with an emphasis placed on Herr) accompany me and that I was to insist also that Herr Schlage not arrive in uniform. My only concern is that politics will get in the way and the investigation will be dropped. I could be his champion and let others decide if justice had been derailed for a man whose only crime was to be a soldier. he had a meeting with a pretty girl he had been seeing of late and I had much work. I summed up for Chesterton all that Ernst had said and wondered now what could be done to bring Wiggins to account for his actions. He would venture nothing else and seemed 41 . of the British embassy. though I feared it might interrupt the flow. could not have done so”. then we must be able to get him into court. It was a Sunday that day we wrapped up our case against Albert Thomas Wiggins. Douglas Linden. for I did not feel much like conversation this evening. That is why we need to have strong and clear evidence that will be difficult to ignore before the politics can intervene”.
I don’t know how Alec felt about it. He smiled a wan smile in my direction before taking my hand in the briefest of acknowledgements and proffered little more to Alec. particularly about my specific instructions as to his manner of dress. I am extremely happy to make your acquaintance. but Ernst. I wondered if I was about to make the right choice.desirous of making this telephone call as brief as possible. The former Palais Strousberg was damaged by fire in the revolution of 1919 but was now fully restored and an impressive monument. Now. looked as if he were a visiting dignitary both in dress and manner. I informed Alec (over a dinner that would not be entered in the history of gastronomy except for what not to do to a chicken) about the meeting and the strange request. She assured me Ernst would meet us there at the appointed hour. I explained to her what was required. that was unexpected. I was left with the feeling that a plot was underway. We three arrived within minutes of the other at that grand building on the Wilhelmstraße. but there was a rising tide of indignation in my craw that was not helped when the bill for the evening’s meal arrived and I saw the amount charged for the chicken. We entered the imposing Great Hall and were promptly met by an almost scurrying Douglas Linden. especially as regards the hesitancy with which Douglas made the approach. I am certain that none of us had for a moment thought this meeting would be anything other than the reading of a previously dictated note to a secretary and passed down 42 . We speculated on many scenarios and finally concluded that Ernst’s fears (or perhaps expectations) of being told to close the file on Rittenauer as an unfortunate suicide. She asked no questions. He did a bit better with the third member of our trio and I gave him some latitude because I expected it was his onerous task to formally advise us of the political reasons for closing our file on Rittenauer. and decided to call Ernst at his home and spoke with Frau Schlage. Alec and I were dressed as usual. I gave it some thought. and to cease all further investigation of the matter was going to be the order of the day. I was to meet Alec that night for a late dinner as prearranged and so I needed only to contact Ernst. I suspected he too guessed the nature of the meeting and that we were to be officially informed our interference in the matter of Rittenauer was to cease forthwith. despite his bulk or perhaps as a result of it. This despite the fact that not too many weeks earlier Alec and I had been obliged to carry a soused Douglas home from a night of revelry to put him to bed. though perhaps a little more attention had been paid to our attire for this particular visit to the embassy. and to discover him the next morning sleeping naked in the foyer to his apartment. The Ambassador will meet with you now”. “Herr Schlage.
His manner conveyed that the meeting was to be considered informal. like Douglas. Ernst. who I feel had the better of us. He looked to a carriage-clock on his desk and smiled amiably to continue. His death will be ascertained as accidental or as death by misadventure”. using it as a perch. Though it was painted in 1904. There is a study of Lady Helen Vincent. earlier. We were whisked to a chamber office to meet with the ambassador. did likewise but with neither the ceremony nor dignity displayed by our friend. I hope that you find it so at any rate”. though I doubt that any such meeting in these circumstances could ever be considered anything less than formal if not august. Lord D’Abernon. Lady Helen Vincent was a stunningly beautiful woman of poise and charm. I shared the sentiments of many that believed his actions to be eccentric. young man. Everything suddenly became more ominous. Herr Schlage clicked his heels smartly and bowed. least of all that of the British and German governments for it to continue. and Alec and I were simply to be part of his retinue. I had the pleasure of introduction to Lord and Lady D’Abernon on two occasions of embassy functions before. painted in Venice by John Singer Sargent. “In the matter of Herr Maximilian Rittenauer.the line to some civil servant. explaining in part the strange and unusual attitude adopted by my friend in his phone call. there is no particular need to hurry this meeting”. there is quite some time left until my next appointment and perhaps I may regale you with a story that I have recently heard from the Home Office. Curiouser and curiouser. I felt indignation rising and contemplated an objection. Alec and I. “You may continue to make yourself comfortable. the investigation into his demise will end immediately. thoughtful man for whom I had considerable respect. Moreover. which I admire. I had not ever been granted an audience with His Excellency before and not likely to do so again. as it is in no one’s interest. it appeared that this invitation had not been bestowed upon me but upon Ernst. 43 . We were invited to seat ourselves and the Lord took up a casual position in front of his desk. and the bearded Lord a clever. minus the heel clicking. It should amuse you. Lord D’Abernon greeted us cordially. “In fact. the intervening years did nothing except enhance her beauty. but he clearly wished to protect Germany from the bullying of France and that alone made me an ally.
specifically that of the group generally referred to as Section 6. and the quarry picked up a knife from the table and rushed over to the window. collaborated on the article. undressed and retired for the evening. and Albert travelled there. Finally he put the medals and photographs in a drawer. improbable story. if presented to the public. even to wearing some of his clothing. would be in order. “The most likely of these resided in Berlin. “The inherent military implications suggested that an investigation by Military Intelligence. His brother died of a gunshot wound he received in the recent conflict. He spent much time in study of the war and narrowed his search to three possible soldiers”. MI6 then requested the assistance of a special branch of the London Constabulary. Albert was bereft and sought revenge upon the enemy soldier. the details could prove an embarrassment to members of His Majesty’s government”. “Albert was tracked down in due course and requested to assist with the enquiries being made into these allegations. He stalked the man for more than a week but was unable to approach him in any manner that offered a chance for revenge without being caught and charged with the murder. for the purposes of this story. Scotland Yard Special Branch and MI6 reviewed the articles about a man whom.“The Home Office was approached by a person of some considerable weight of influence and requested to look into an article recently forwarded to a newspaper office by two foreign-correspondents that. He appeared to be inebriated and the search was random at best. He lurked outside of his quarry’s home and peeped through windows that looked out onto a side-alley. The gentleman of weight suggested that. it would appear. we’ll call Albert. which he would don. Eventually he gave up and placed the knife in his pocket and headed off in the direction of a frequented beer-hall”. in the usual course of events.” “Albert was spotted peeping through the window one night. The man played music on the gramophone while he dressed himself in military attire and ceremoniously awarded himself several medals. Albert fled to hide behind some trees in time to witness the man rush out of his house in a bid to search for the intruder. It suggested that a former soldier of His Majesty was guilty of fraud at several levels and of impersonating another former soldier of His Majesty. and found them to be substantive. managing to smuggle the weapon out of England. He assumed his brother’s identity. He told a rather fanciful. presently housed in the New Scotland Yard to assist with the civilian aspects of the alleged fraudulent activity. be easily identified and traced back to him. There he observed his quarry reviewing photographs and dressing up in what he assumed was his old army uniform. and purchased a handgun that would not. 44 .
He was now convinced this was the man he sought and went ahead with his preparations. He found the door to his quarry’s rooms was closed and locked. He accosted him in an attempt to ascertain if he was the man he sought. He became afraid he might attract too much attention. When they were sufficiently distant. A brief search of the house did not turn up a key. He admired the pickelhaube helmet and decided to add it to the scene he was creating. He broke into the room. helmets and a belt with a bayonet. He carried with him an oily rag wrapped around the gun. Once again he saw his quarry leave. and after 45 . He couldn’t do so and settled for removing the screws from the striker-plate. There was actually little damage but he was still unable to close the door again. He decided to alter his plan. pulled the key through the letter slot. “Albert’s original plan. She appeared to lock the front door with a key suspended from some twine inside the letter slot”. A search of the rooms revealed the drawer with its medals and photographs and a closet that contained the tunic. and left”. “He surveyed the windows and decided that it might take more time to wriggle his way out than thought and could lead to his being accosted by someone attracted by the sound of the gunshot. he did not speak the language well and alarmed the man. he said. His intention was to wipe down the gun with the rag so that it had legitimate reason to be in his quarry’s possession. He placed the medals and photographs on the table along with a bottle of spirits he discovered next to the bed. followed by the woman. “He noted one afternoon that his quarry left the house to be followed shortly by a woman he assumed was the man’s wife. Unfortunately. He had the intention of dismantling the lock. Placing the striker-plate over the bolt to act as a shim to keep the door tight he forced the bolt across the jamb and home”. He planned to recover the key from him. was to await his quarry. and entered the house after assuring that no one else was in residence. He was able to find a small tool in a kitchen drawer that would serve as a screwdriver. and he was holding a rifle of the type favoured by snipers. “He continued to lurk near the house. leaving the gun behind so it would not incriminate him were he caught”. An examination of the photographs showed his quarry posing with several other soldiers at a field camp somewhere. hold him at bay with the gun until he was able to lock the door and apply the security-chain so he could not easily receive assistance. He would apprise him of why he was going to shoot him and then make good his escape via one of the windows. He chipped some wood from the edge of the jamb sufficient to allow the bolt to slip back into the mortise. he approached the house.“Albert found him in the beer-hall still wearing the tunic and medals.
shooting him. supposedly in response to hearing the gunshot. Then he would plant the key on the floor to be found at a later time. Albert proceeded with his plan. “Albert discovered as he moved about the room that he was able. if he stood in the correct position. snatch the key from his hand. drag the man into the room. That would only become evident should another key that he did not find in his brief search be used to open the door”. But there was a small flaw. He finished creating the scene. and push the door closed behind him. He decided that he could amend his plan to allow for his reappearance. the striker-plate dropped to the floor and the man’s attention was directed at the floor to ascertain the source of the noise. He turned on the gramophone and stood by the door to listen for her”. “He heard a commotion at the front door. to view a small portion of the walk through the window and he should be able to get advance warning of someone returning home. thus hiding the injury of its earlier violation”. His thoughts were verified when he sighted the woman he believed to be his quarry’s wife pass by shortly after. “When the door opened. he planned on stating it was in response to the noise of the gun. then the woman called out something as she passed down the hallway to the rear of the house. “Convinced of the legitimacy of his vengeance. Taking up his vantage at the window. he removed the security-chain and relocated it to give sufficient allowance so he could secure it from outside the door before locking the door and disappearing. All he needed to do now was wait”. He hoped he would have at least ten seconds before anyone else within earshot responded to the gunfire. to break through the door. he then saw his quarry pass by. He rehearsed the events and the only points that might unravel the scheme were the absence of the key to the rooms and evidence that the door had previously been forcibly opened. “With this thought in mind. If the wife or someone else arrived home before his quarry and were in possession of a key. including placing a gramophone record on the platter. then he needed some surety that the door would be forcibly opened. “He needed a plan that would involve the door being broken into again in order to hide the original damage. lock the door and make good his escape from the house and the scene of the crime”. He turned off the gramophone and stood in ambush at the door”. If he were surprised at the door. The man was caught off guard and off balance and was unable to resist 46 . He stuck the barrel of the gun under the man’s chin as he wrestled him over to the chair next to the table. He heard nothing else and the woman did not reappear. This allowed Albert enough time to reach out.
“Still feigning distress. doing considerable damage to the doorframe. He pretended to hold the door for support while neatly slipping the key into the lock. “Albert stood for a while at the front door in order to get himself under control before he attempted the second phase of his plan.momentarily. She was standing in the hall in tears and some considerable anguish. He threw the gun and a picture of a girl he guessed might have been an earlier sweetheart on top of the body. He tried to offer to break into the room but she didn’t understand him and asked for him to get the police. He now needed only to plant the key somewhere likely in the room. He deftly slid the security-chain into place and locked the door. When the sympathetic officer finished the interview. Suddenly he began to struggle despite the threat of the weapon. As he headed for the outside. He was granted permission to leave and. He placed the needle onto the gramophone record and made to exit the room. He held out the key to the front door. He soon heard the woman calling out the man’s name and heard her pounding on the door. Albert suggested he might offer a few words of comfort to the woman before he took his leave. “Albert offered to make a written report to the police and then requested an authority to return home to England. indicating that it had fallen to the floor. one of the policemen came to interview him on the steps to the house where he still feigned distress. He led the police hurriedly back to the house and was pleased when one of them kicked the door in. He cautiously opened the front door and was gratified to see she did not have a key to the door in her hand. he pulled the trigger. but this made it imperative he get the key he took from the man. He removed the key and put it in his pocket to join the tool he had stolen from the kitchen to manipulate the lock. It held. The striker-plate was originally recessed into the doorjamb and he pushed it into position. became certain that he was 47 . as a result. He now needed only to be officially dismissed”. Sensing the fight might be about to get away from him. He made it through the front door without being detected”. The woman rushed in behind the police and he followed her. Eventually. He was suddenly inspired and made it appear the grisly scene overcame him. Albert asked for permission to leave. back into the room. She took it with a brief attempt at a smile and slipped it into her apron pocket”. He realised the sharp-eyed police might notice it and realise how easy it would be for someone to enter the house. He had been lurking in the region long enough to know where the police would be walking their beat at this time of the afternoon. Albert pushed the man into the chair and it began to fall backward. hoping it would hold long enough for the door to be closed before it fell. It had not gone according to plan but Albert quickly put the rest of it into action. and set out after them. he noticed the key to the front door hanging over the letter slot.
Their recommendation was that he be committed to an asylum for the criminally insane. Here was a man confessing to a crime that was never reported as a crime. never to be released. Were it to be identified by the housekeeper as having been previously in her possession. “It is an interesting story. in deliberation. decreed that this man. himself. He appreciated our dilemma in seeking justice. “The Home Office was placed in a dilemma. It is not often that the feathers of the Home Office are so ruffled. and dangerously so. do you not agree? I trust you were as much amused by it. Still. to explain to both Ernst and Alec that this man of considerable influence was Chesterton. I had 48 . who concluded he was as mad as a hatter. This caused the interviewers to look more closely at Albert’s service records. as that man of considerable weight pointed out. It was over. He was committed Thursday last”. after some debate. the populace in general might believe the details and they may demand some action if the story were published. What were they to do? They could choose not to believe him. The ambassador paused to let this sink in before he settled to a more comfortable position and returned to his story. I wish that I had a similar influence with the Foreign Office for we seem mostly to be at odds these days”. It was resolved and resolved in such a way that none of us had even conjectured. I doubt if any of us so much as blinked during the course of this monologue. that only a man of unsound mind would freely detail and admit to murdering another man if he were not guilty of such a crime. never visited. There was nothing to suggest Albert ever requested a passport from the British government. They referred them to experts in the field of psychology and psychoanalysis. Albert. should be committed to an asylum for the criminally insane. and so he created a dilemma for others who could find a solution. In view of his earlier pronouncement. “It was considered. It took place in a country that man. I realised. Well. This was especially so as Albert showed the authorities the tool he said he stole from the kitchen drawer to manipulate the screws of the door. according to available records. He felt jubilation and a sense of vindication in the commission of his crime”. I would need. for his service record indicated he was prone to prevarication. I am certain he and Ernst would get along splendidly. I was at a loss as to where he was headed. as was I. I shan’t bore you with such anecdotes any longer though I do hope at some future moment in time to meet with that gentleman of considerable weight.under no suspicion. This recommendation was taken before a magistrate who. then many awkward questions might arise”.
It was a small degree of respect for a man who had earned it but to whom it had never been granted. It was a farewell to a man whose life became forfeit at the sounding of the war tocsin. just a simple interment of a simple soldier. “Ah. You will be advised. less for its culinary-delights than for its delight to Ernst’s sense of humour. Someone not knowledgeable of the affair that was taking place may have well wondered whom such eminent dignitaries were thus honouring. I must attend another appointment”. yes. He did his duty. seemingly on command. He was buried with his medals of valour and bravery. I hurriedly explained to Alec and Ernst of Chesterton’s involvement in this affair. It was our turn now to do our duty and give to him that which he had earned. The ambassador caught my eye. Ernst was quick to suggest that it was his turn to treat us at our favourite café and Alec and I raised our eyebrows at this rare largesse. Alec joined me. I was hungry. “There is a cemetery at the head of Scharnhorststraße—”. I see. We stood on the straße blinking our eyes against the glare after the comfortable gloom of the building’s interior. and what more can be asked of a man. having spied someone whom 49 . if you would excuse me. The three members of the Schutzpolizei. I was still quite certain this particular café was chosen. The coffin had been removed from its bier and was lowered into the grave. clicked his heels as he had done in the ambassador’s office and bowed. he reached out and took my hand to give it a brief shake. There was no funeral service. The Invalidenfriedhof is large and we were in a quiet corner of it: a small but distinguished group of mourners huddled close in intimate respect. It was interesting to note how quickly the adjoining tables became empty once this uniformed man sat down. dressed in a uniform that he never owned. We spent less than an hour sipping coffee and speaking of the event that brought us together before each of us had need to return to our work. Now. Alec departed first.just one more item needing resolution. I will see that it is arranged. detailing some of the lengthy letters I had sent to him. and no eulogy. stepped back and saluted. before Douglas Linden appeared out of nowhere to escort us through the Great Hall to the doors that opened onto the grand façade of 70 Wilhelmstraße and the late-afternoon sun of a Berlin summer. no memorial. We sat in the shade of an awning. Ernst admitted of another appointment but before he departed. The ceremony had run its course. I did not know how to respond but the moment passed as Ernst clapped Alec on the arm and turned to find a cab. He then stood back. I am certain that can be arranged.
Ernst stood to leave when a familiar Opel pulled up to the curb. She was tending to German wounded at an aid station not far behind the lines when a regrettable targeting error occurred and British artillery unwittingly shelled the aid station. I had my hands full filling pages of type to document these daily events and felt just as helpless to suggest a course of action that could even begin to offer relief. I slipped inside to speak to the proprietor. One of those nurses was Traudl Rittenauer. The End 50 . I had a moment of curiosity and when the Opel pulled away into traffic. she might like to know how Rittenauer had finished his life. He just requests a receipt for the meal so his department can reimburse him. and as the days grew shorter. She had not been identified and I thought perhaps. Despite new measures adopted by the former Reichskanzler. The girl in the photo was Rittenauer’s sister. inflation was slow to ease its ever-upward spiral. and this continued to create shortages of basic commodities and the German people suffered. Maybe your newspapers should offer to pay once in a while”.he had been trying to interview for several days. Soon after the funeral. further political unrest occurred. tell me what it is Herr Schlage says to you every time he comes in here when we are ready to leave”. Rittenauer went off to war and his sister became a nurse. all that was left of his family after their parents died in a tragic accident. and I distributed them to various contacts that had been helpful in the past. killing several of the wounded. I like you and Alec but my taxes pay for all those meals you make Herr Schlage buy for you. I requested from Ernst the photograph of that girl in dirndl that was tossed so casually onto Rittenauer’s lap after he had been shot. The third week of October brought me an answer of awful irony. I arranged for one of our photographers at the foreign-desk to make copies of the photo. Cooler weather returned to Berlin but that was offset by hotter tempers. were she still alive. Germany was just waiting for a messiah. “He says nothing. “Oskar. as he seemed to do whenever we left some restaurant. one doctor and two nurses. I remember that I cried. He went inside briefly.
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